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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 

GIFT OF 

Dr. Waldemar Westergaard 



BAR ABB AS 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 



BY 

MARIE CORELLI 

AUTHOR OP 

'VENDETTA!" "A ROMANCE OF Two WORLDS," "ARDATH," ETC., ETC. 



"And they consulted how they might take him by 
ubtilty." ST. MATT. xxvi. v. 4 



PHILADELPHIA 

J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY 
1896 



COPYRIGHT, 1893, 

BY 
|. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY. 



ElECTROTVPED AND PRINTED BY J. B. LlPPINCOTT COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA, U. S. A. 



" And they had then a notable prisoner called Barabbas." 
Matthew xxvii. v. 16. 

" One named Barabbas which lay bound with them that had 
made insurrection with him." Mark xv. v. 7. 

"Barabbas, who for a certain sedition made in the city and 
for murder was cast into prison." Luke xxiii. v. 18, 19. 

" Now Barabbas was a robber."; John xviii. v. 40. 



BARABBAS 



CHAPTER I. 

A LONG sultry Syrian day was drawing near its close. 

The heavy heat was almost insupportable, and a poisonous 
stench oozed up from the damp earth-floors of the Jewish 
prison, charging what little air there was with a deadly sense 
of suffocation. Down in the lowest dungeons complete dark- 
ness reigned, save in one of the cells allotted to the worst 
criminals ; there, all through the slow hours a thin white line 
of light had persistently pierced the thick obscurity. It was 
the merest taper-flame reflection of the outside glowing East- 
ern sky, yet narrow as it was, it had vexed the eyes of the 
solitary prisoner on whom it fell, and he had turned from its 
hot flash with a savage curse and groan. Writhing back as 
far as his chains would allow, he covered his face with his 
manacled hands, pressing his eyelids down, and gnawing his 
lips in restless fury till his mouth was bitter with the taste of 
his own blood. He was seized with such impotent rages 
often. He mentally fought against that poignant light-beam 
cutting like a sword through deep darkness, he regarded it 
as a positive foe and daily source of nervous irritation. It 
marked for him the dismal time, when it shone he knew 
it was day, when it vanished, it was night. Otherwise, 
whether minutes or hours passed, he could not tell. His 
existence had merged into one protracted phase of dull suffer- 
ing, varied with occasional fits of maniac ferocity which only 
relieved him for the moment and left him more stupefied and 
brutish than before. He had no particular consciousness of 
anything except of that needle-pointed ray which, falling 
obliquely upon him, dazzled and hurt his eyes. He could 
have endured the glare of the Syrian sun in the free and 
open country, no one better than he could have turned a 
1* 6 



6 BARABBAS 

bold gaze to its amber flame radiating tbrougb the vast blue 
dome of ether, but here and now, that thin shaft of bright- 
ness pouring slantwise through the narrow slit in the wall 
which alone served as an air-passage to the foul den in which 
he was caged seemed an aggression and a mockery. He made 
querulous complaint of it, and huddling on his bed of dirty 
straw in the furthest darkness refreshed himself anew with 
curses. Against God and Fate and man he railed in thick- 
throated blasphemies, twisting and turning from side to side 
and clutching now and again in sheer ferocity at the straw on 
which he lay. He was alone, yet not altogether lonely, for 
close beside him where he crouched like a sullen beast in the 
corner there was a crossed grating of thick iron bars, the only 
air-aperture to the neighbouring cell, and through this there 
presently came a squat grimy hand. After feeling about for 
a while, this hand at last found and cautiously pulled the edge 
of his garment, and a faint hoarse voice called him by name. 

" Barabbas !" 

He turned with a swift savage movement that set his chains 
clanking dismally. 

" What now ?" 

"They have forgotten us," whined the voice. "Since 
early morning they have brought no food. I am perishing 
with hunger and thirst ! Ah, I would I had never seen thy 
face, Barabbas, or had aught to do with thine evil plotting 1" 

Barabbas made no answer. 

" Knowest thou not," went on his invisible fellow-felon, 
" what season this is in the land ?" 

"How should I know!" retorted Barabbas disdainfully. 
" What are seasons to me ? Is it a year or years since we 
were brought hither? If thou can'st tell, I cannot." 

" 'Tis eighteen months since thou did'st slay the Pharisee," 
replied his neighbour with marked malignity of accent, 
" And had it not been for that wicked deed of thine, we 
might have missed this present wretchedness. Verily it is a 
marvel we have lived so long, for look you, now it is Pass- 

Barabbas uttered no word, either of surprise or interest. 

" Reraemberest thou the custom of the Feast?" pursued 

the speaker, " How that one captive chosen by the people 

shall be set at liberty? Would that it might be one of us, 

(arabbas ! There were ten of our company ,ten as goodly 

nen as ever were born in Judaea, always excepting thee. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 7 

For thou wert mad for love, and a frenzied lover is the worst 
of fools." 

Barabbas still kept silence. 

" If innocence hath any merit," continued the voice behind 
the grating anxiously, " then perchance the choice will fall 
on me ! For am I not an innocent man ? The God of my 
fathers knoweth that my hands are not stained with the blood 
of the virtuous ; I slew no Pharisee ! A little gold was all I 
sought" 

" And did'st thou not take it ?" rejoined Barabbas suddenly 
and with scorn, " Thou hypocrite ! Did'st thou not rob the 
Pharisee of all he had upon him even to his last jewel ? Did 
not the guard capture thee in the very act of breaking with 
thy teeth the gold band from his arm ere the breath left his 
body ? Cease thy prating ! Thou art the worst thief in 
Jerusalem and thou knowest it !" 

There was a sound behind the bars as of something between 
a grunt and a snarl, and the squat hand thrust itself through 
with vicious suddenness, to be as suddenly withdrawn. A 
pause ensued. 

" No food all day !" moaned the voice again presently 
" And not a drop of water ! Surely if they come not I shall 
die ! I shall die in this darkness, this dense pitch black- 
ness" and the faint accents grew feebly shrill with fear 
"Dost thou hear me, thou accursed Barabbas? I shall 
die!" 

" And so there will be an end of thee," returned Barabbas 
indifferently "And those who hoard gold in the city can 
sleep safely henceforth with open doors !" 

Out came the ugly hand again, this time clenched, giving 
in its repulsive shape and expression a perfect idea of the 
villainous character of its unseen owner. 

" Thou art a devil, Barabbas!" and the shadowy outline 
of a livid face and wild hair appeared for an instant against 
the grating " And I swear to thee I will live on, if only in 
the hope of seeing thee crucified !" 

Barabbas held his peace, and dragged himself and his 
clanking chains away from his spiteful fellow-prisoner's vicinity. 
Lifting his eyes distrustfully he peered upward with a smart- 
ing sense of pain, then heaved a deep sigh of relief as he 
saw that the burning arrow line of white radiance no longer 
lit the cell. It had changed to a beam of soft and dusky 
crimson. 



g BARABBAS 

Sunset !" he muttered. " How many times hath the sun 
gone down and risen since I beheld her last ! This is the 
hour she loves, she will go with her maidens to the well 
behind her father's house, and underneath the palm-trees she 
will rest and rejoice, while I, I, God of vengeance ! 
I may never look upon her face again. Eighteen months 
of torture 1 Eighteen months in this tomb and no hope of 
respite !' ' 

With a savage gesture he rose and stood upright ; his 
head almost touched the dungeon ceiling and he stepped 
warily, the heavy fetters on his bare legs jangling harshly as 
he moved. Placing one foot on a notch in the wall he was 
able to bring his eyes easily on a level with the narrow aper- 
ture through which the warm fire-glow of the sunset fell, but 
there was little to be seen from such a point of observation. 
Only a square strip of dry uncultivated land belonging to the 
prison, and one solitary palm-tree lifting its crown of feathery 
leaves against the sky. He stared out for a moment, fancy- 
ing he could discern the far-off hazy outline of the hills sur- 
rounding the city, then, too faint with long fasting to retain 
his footing, he slipped back and returned to his former corner. 
There he sat, glowering darkly at the rose-light reflected on 
the floor. It partially illumined his own features, bringing 
into strong prominence his scowling brows and black resent- 
ful eyes, it flashed a bright life-hue on his naked chest that 
heaved with the irregular and difficult breath of one who 
fights against long exhaustion and hunger-pain, and it glit- 
tered with a sinister coppery tint on the massive iron gyves 
that bound his wrists together. He looked much more like a 
caged wild beast than a human being, with his matted hair 
and rough beard, he was barely clothed, his only garment 
being a piece of sackcloth which was kept about his loins by 
means of a coarse black rope, twisted twice and loosely knot- 
ted. The heat in the cell was intense, yet he shivered now 
and then as he crouched in the stifling gloom, his knees 
drawn nearly up to his chin, and his shackled hands resting 
on his knees, while he stared with an owl-like pertinacity at 
the crimson sunbeam which with every second grew paler and 
dimmer. At first it had been an ardent red, as red as the 
blood of a slain Pharisee, thought Barabbas with a dark 
smile, hut now it had waned to a delicate wavering pink 
like the fleeting blush of a fair woman, and a great shudder 
cized him as this latter fancy crossed his sick and sulleD 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 9 

mind. With a smothered cry he clenched his hands hard as 
though assailed by some unendurable physical pang. 

"Judith! Judith!" he whispered, and yet again "Ju- 
dith!" 

And trembling violently, he turned and hid his face, press- 
ing his forehead close against the damp and slimy wall. Aud 
thus he remained, motionless, his massive figure looking 
like a weird Titanesque shape carved in stone. 

The last red flicker from the sunken sun soon faded and 
dense darkness fell. Not a sound or movement betrayed the 
existence of any human creature in that noxious gloom. 
Now and again the pattering feet of mice scurrying swiftly 
about the floor made a feeble yet mysterious clamour, other- 
wise, all was intensely still. Outside, the heavens were put- 
ting on all their majesty; the planets swam into the purple 
ether, appearing to open and shine like water-lilies on a lake, 
in the east a bar of silvery cloud showed where the moon 
would shortly rise, and through the window slit of the dun- 
geon one small star could be just discerned, faintly glittering. 
But not even an argent ray flung slantwise from the moon 
when at last she ascended the skies could illumine the dense 
thicket of shadows that gathered in that dreary cell, or touch 
with a compassionate brightness the huddled form of the 
wretched captive within. Invisible and solitary, he wrestled 
with his own physical and mental misery, unconscious that 
the wall against which he leaned was warm and wet with 
tears, the painful tears, worse than the shedding of blood, 
of a strong man's bitter agony. 



CHAPTER II. 

HOURS passed, and presently the heavy silence was 
broken by a distant uproar, a hollow sound like the sudden 
inrush of a sea, which began afar off, and gathered strength 
as it came. Rolling onward and steadily increasing in volume, 
it appeared to split itself into a thousand angry echoes close 
by the dungeon walls, and a confused tumult of noisy tongues 
arose, mingling with the hurried and disorderly tramping of 
many feet and the clash of weapons. Voices argued hoarsely, 
there were shrill whistlings, and now and then the flare 



10 BARABBAS 

of tossing torches cast a fitful fire-gleam into the den where 
Barabbas lay. Once a loud laugh rang out above the more 
indistinct hubbub followed by a shout 

" Prophesy ! Prophesy I Who is he that smote thee ?" 

And the laughter became general, merging itself swiftly 
into a frantic chorus of yells and groans and hisses. Then 
came a brief pause, in which some of the wilder noises 
ceased, and an angry disputation seemed to be going on be- 
tween two or three individuals in authority, till presently the 
ocean-like roar and swell of sound recommenced, passed slowly 
on, and began to die away like gradually diminishing peals of 
thunder. But while it remained yet within distinct hearing, 
there was a slow dragging of chains inside the dungeon and 
a feeble beating of manacled hands at the interior grating, 
and the voice that had called before now called again : 

" Barabbas !" 

No answer was returned. 

" Barabbas ! Hearest thou the passing multitude?" 

Still silence. 

" Barabbas ! Dog ! Assassin 1" and the speaker dealt an 
angry blow with his two fists at the dividing bars, " Art 
thou deaf to good news? I tell thee there is some strife in 
the city, some new sedition, it may be that our friends 
have conquered where we have failed ! Down with the law I 
Down with the tyrant and oppressor 1 Down with the Phar- 
isees ! Down with everything !" And he laughed, his 
laughter being little more than a hoarse whisper, " Barab- 
bas ! We shall be free ! Free ! think of it, thou villain 1 
A thousand curses on thee ! Art thou dead or sleeping that 
thou wilt not answer me ?" 

But he exhausted his voice in vain, and vainly beat his fists 
against the grating. Barabbas was mute. The moonlight, 
grown stronger, pierced the gloom of his cell with a silvery 
radiance which blurred objects rather than illumined them, 
so that the outline of his figure could scarcely be discerned 
by his fellow-captive who strove to see him through the bars 
of the lower dungeon. Meanwhile the noise of the crowd in 
the streets outside had retreated into the distance, and only a 
faint murmur arose from time to time like the far-off surge 
of waves on a rocky shore. 

" Barabbas 1 Barabbas 1" and the vexed weak voice grew 
suddenly loud with an access of spite and fury " An' thou 
wilt not respond to good tidings thou shalt listen to evil 1 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY U 

Hear me ! hear thy friend Hanan, who knows the wicked 
ways of women better than thou ! Why did'st thou kill the 
Pharisee, thou fool ? 'Twas wasted pains, for his boast was 
a true one, and thy Judith is a" 

The opprobrious term he meant to use was never uttered, 
for with a sudden spring, fierce and swift as that of an en- 
raged lion leaping from its lair, the hitherto inert Barabbas 
was upon him, clutching at the two hands he had thrust 
through the grating to support himself, and squeezing and 
bending them against the bars with a terrific ferocity that 
threatened to snap the wrists asunder. 

" Accursed Hanan ! Dog ! Breathe but her name again 
and I will saw thy robber hands off on this blunt iron and 
leave thee but the bleeding stumps wherewith to steal 1" 

Face to face in the faintly moonlit gloom, and all but in- 
visible to one another, they writhed and wrestled a little space 
with strange impotence and equally strange fury, the chains 
on their fettered arms clashing against the bars between, till 
with a savage scream of pain, Hanan tore his maimed fingers 
and lacerated wrists from the pitiless grasp that crushed them, 
and fell helplessly downward into the darkness of his own 
den, while Barabbas flung himself away and back on his bed 
of straw, breathing hard and heavily, and shuddering through 
every fibre of his frame. 

" If it were true," he whispered between his set teeth 
"if it were true, if she were false, if the fair flesh and 
blood were but a mask for vileness, God ! she would be 
worse than I, a greater sinner than I have ever been !" 

He buried his head in the hollow of his arm and lay quite 
still, striving to think out the problem of his own wild nature, 
his own blind and unbridled passions. It was a riddle too 
dark and difficult to solve easily, and gradually his mind 
wandered, and his thoughts began to lose themselves in a 
dizzy unconsciousness that was almost pleasure after so much 
pain. His clenched hands relaxed, his breathing became 
easier, and presently, heaving a deep sigh of exhaustion, he 
stretched himself out on the straw like a tired hound and 
slept. 

The night marched on majestically. The moon and her 
sister planets paced through their glorious circles of harmo- 
nious light and law ; and from all parts of the earth, prayers 
in every form and every creed went up to heaven for pity, 
pardon, and blessing on sinful humanity that had neither 



12 BARABBAS 

pity, pardon, nor blessing for itself, till, with a magic sud- 
denness the dense purple skies changed to a pearly grey, 
the moon sank pallidly out of sight, the stars were extin- 
guished one by one like lamps when a feast is ended, and 
morning began to suggest its approach in the freshening air. 
But Barabbas still slept. In his sleep he had unconsciously 
turned his face upward to what glimmering light there was, 
and a placid smile smoothed the fierce ruggedness of his 
features. Slumbering thus, it was possible to imagine what 
this unkempt and savage-looking creature might have been 
in boyhood ; there was something of grace in his attitude 
despite his fettered limbs, there were lines of tenderness 
about his mouth, the curve of which could be just seen through 
his rough beard ; and there was a certain grave beauty about 
the broad brow and closed eyelids. Awake, he fully ap- 
peared to be what he was, a rebellious and impenitent crimi- 
nal, but in that perfect tranquillity of deep repose he might 
have passed for a brave man wronged. 

With the first faint light of the dawn, a sudden unwonted 
stir and noise began in the outer courts of the prison. Ba- 
rabbas, overpowered by slumber as he was, heard it in a semi- 
conscious way, without realising what it might mean. But 
presently, as it grew louder, he opened his eyes reluctantly, 
and raising himself on one arm, listened. Soon he caught in 
the distance the sound of clashing weapons and the steady 
tramp of men, and while he yet wondered, vaguely and 
sleepily, at the unusual commotion, the clashing and jangling 
and marching drew nearer and nearer, till it came to an 
abrupt halt outside his very cell. The key turned in the lock, 
the huge bolts were thrust back, the door flew open, and 
such a blaze of light flared in that he put up his hands to 
shield his eyes as if from a blow. Blinking like a scared owl, 
he roused himself and struggled into a sitting posture, staring 
stupidly at what he saw, a group of glittering soldiery 
headed by an officer who, holding a smoking torch aloft, 
peered into the drear blackness of the dungeon with a search- 
ing air of command. 

" Come forth, Barabbas !" 

Barabbas gazed and gazed, dreamily and without apparent 
comprehension. 

Just then a shrill voice yelled, 

" I, also ! I, Hanan, am innocent! Bring me also before 
the Tribunal 1 Give me justice ! Barabbas slew the Phari- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 13 

Bee, not I ! The mercy of the Feast for Hanan ! Surely ye 
will not take Barabbas hence and leave me here?" 

No heed was paid to these clamourings, and the officer 
merely repeated his command. 

" Come forth, Barabbas !" 

Growing more broadly awake, Barabbas stumbled up on his 
feet and made an effort to obey, but his heavy chains pre- 
vented his advance. Perceiving this, the officer gave order 
to his men, and in a few minutes the impeding fetters were 
struck off, and the prisoner was immediately surrounded by 
the guard. 

"Barabbas! Barabbas!" shrieked Hanan within. 

Barabbas paused, looking vaguely at the soldiers who 
pressed him in their midst. Then he turned his eyes upon 
their commander. 

" If I go to my death," he said faintly, " I pray thee give 
yonder man food. He hath starved and thirsted all day and 
night, and he was once my friend." 
,.. The officer surveyed him somewhat curiously. 

"Is that thy last request, Barabbas?" he inquired. "It 
is Passover, and we will grant thee anything in reason 1" 

He laughed, and his men joined in the laughter. But 
Barabbas only stared straight ahead, his eyes looking like 
those of a hunted animal brought to bay. 

" Do thus much for charity," he muttered feebly ; " I have 
also starved and thirsted, but Hanan is weaker than I." 

Again the officer glanced at him, but this time deigned no 
answer. Wheeling abruptly round he uttered the word of 
command, placed himself at the head of his men, and the 
whole troop, with Barabbas in their centre closely guarded, 
strode onward and upward out of the dark dungeon precincts 
to the higher floors of the building. And as they tramped 
through the stone passages, they extinguished the torches 
they carried, for the night was past and the morning had 



14 BARABBAS 



CHAPTER IIL 

MARCHING into the courtyard of the prison, the party 
halted there, while the heavy gates were being unfastened to 
allow an exit. Outside was the street, the city, freedom ! 
and Barabbas, still staring ahead, uttered a hoarse cry and 
put his manacled hands to his throat as though he were 
choking. 

"What ails thee?" demanded one of the men nearest 
him, giving him a dig in the ribs with the hilt of his 
weapon, " Stand up, fool ! Never tell me that a breath of 
air can knock thee down like a felled bullock !" 

For Barabbas reeled and would have fallen prone on the 
ground insensible, had not the soldiers caught at his swaying 
figure and dragged him up, roughly enough, and with much 
coarse swearing. But his face had the pallor of death, and 
through his ragged beard his lips could be seen, livid and 
drawn apart over his clenched teeth like the lips of a corpse, 
his breathing was scarcely perceptible. 

The commander of the troop advanced and examined him. 

" The man is starved," he said briefly, " Give him wine." 

This order was promptly obeyed, and wine was held to the 
mouth of the swooning captive, but his teeth were fast set 
and he remained unconscious. Drop by drop however, the 
liquid was ungently forced down his throat, and after a couple 
of minutes, his chest heaved with the long laboured sighs of 
returning vitality, and his eyes flashed widely open. 

" Air, air!" he gasped, " The free air, the light" 

He thrust out his chained hands gropingly, and then, with 
a sudden rush of strength induced by the warmth of the 
wine, he began to laugh wildly. 

" Freedom 1" he exclaimed, " Freedom 1 To live or die, 
what matter ! Free ! Free !" 

" Hold thy peace, thou dog!" said the commanding officer 
sharply " Who told thee thou wert free? Look at thy 
fettered wrists and be wise 1 Watch him closely, men 1 
March !" 

The prison-gates fell back on their groaning hinges and 
the measured 'tramp, tramp of the little troop awakened 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 15 

echoes of metallic music as they defiled across the stony street 
and passed down a steep flight of steps leading to a subter- 
ranean passage which directly communicated with the tri- 
bunal of justice or Hall of Judgment. This passage was a 
long vaulted way, winding in and out through devious twists 
and turnings, and was faintly lit up by oil lamps placed in 
sconces at regular distances, the flickering luminance thus 
given only making the native darkness of the place more pal- 
pable. Gloom and imprisonment were as strongly suggested 
here as in the dungeons left behind, and Barabbas, his 
heart sickening anew with vain dread, shrank and shivered, 
stumbling giddily once or twice as he strove to keep pace 
with the steady march of his escort. Hope died within him ; 
the flashing idea of liberty that had stirred him to such a 
sudden rapture of anticipation, now fled like a dream. He 
was being taken to his death ; of that he felt sure. What 
mercy could he expect at the hands of the judge by whom 
he knew he must be tried and condemned ? For was not 
Pontius Pilate governor of Judaea ? and had not he, Barabbas, 
slain, in a moment of unthinking fury, one of Pilate's friends ? 
That accursed Pharisee ! His sleek manner, his self-right- 
eous smile, his white hand with the glittering blazon of a 
priceless jewel on the forefinger, and all the trifling details 
of costume and deportment that went to make up the inso- 
lent and aggressive personality of the man, these things 
Barabbas remembered with a thrill of loathing. He could 
almost see him as he saw him then, before with one fierce 
stab he had struck him to the earth, dead, and bleeding hor- 
ribly in the brilliant moonlight, his wide open eyes glaring to 
the last in dumb and dreadful hate upon his murderer. And 
a life must always be given for a life ; Barabbas admitted the 
stern justice of this law. It was only what he knew to be 
the ordained manner of death for such criminals as he, that 
caused his nerves to wince with fear and agony. If, like the 
Pharisee, he could be struck out of existence in a moment, 
why, that were naught, but to be stretched on beams of 
wood there to blister for long hours in the pitiless sun, to 
feel every sinew strained to cracking, and every drop of blood 
turning first to fire and then to ice, this was enough to 
make the strongest man shudder ; and Barabbas, weakened 
by long fasting and want of air, trembled so violently at 
times that he could scarcely drag his limbs along. His head 
swam and his eyes smarted ; there were dull noises in his ears 



16 B ARABS AS 

caused partly by the surging "blood in his brain, and partly by 
the echo of a sound which with every onward step grew 
more distinct, a clamour of angry voices and shouting in 
the midst of which he fancied he heard his own name, 

" Barabbas ! Barabbas 1" 

Startled, he looked inquiringly into the faces of the soldiers 
that surrounded him, but their impassive bronze-like features 
betrayed no intelligence. Vainly he strove to listen more at- 
tentively, the clanking weapons of his guard and the meas- 
ured thud of their feet on the stone pavement prevented him 
from catching the real purport of those distant outcries. Yet 
surely, surely there was another shout 

" Barabbas ! Barabbas !" 

A sickening horror suddenly seized him, a swift and 
awful comprehension of his true position. The mob, relent- 
less in all ages, were evidently clamouring for his death, and 
were even now preparing to make sport of his torments. 
Nothing more glorious to a brutal populace than the physical 
agony of a helpless fellow-creature, nothing more laughter- 
moving than to watch the despair, the pain, and the writhing 
last struggle of a miserable human wretch condemned to 
perish by a needlessly slow and barbarous torture. Thinking 
of this, great drops of sweat bathed his brow, and as he 
staggered feebly on, he prayed dumbly for some sudden end, 
prayed that his hot and throbbing blood might rush in 
merciful full force to a vital centre of his brain that so he 
might fall into oblivion swiftly like a stone falling into the 
sea. Anything anything, rather than face the jeers and 
the mockery of a pitiless multitude trooping forth as to a 
feast to see him die ! 

Closer and closer came the hubbub and roar, interspersed 
with long pauses of comparative stillness, and it was during 
one of these pauses that his enforced journey came to an end.j 
Turning sharply round the last corner of the underground, 
passage, the soldiers tramped out into the daylight, and as- 
cended several wide marble steps, afterwards crossing an 
open circular court, empty and cool in the silver-grey hues 
of early dawn. Finally passing under a columnar arch, they 
entered a vast Hall, which was apparently divided into two 
square spaces, one almost clear, save for a few prominent 
figures that stood forth in statuesque outlines against a back- 
ground of dark purple hangings fringed with gold, the 
other densely crowded with people who were only kept from 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 17 

rushing into the judicial precincts by a line of Roman 
soldiery headed by their centurion. 

On the appearance of Barabbas with his armed escort, 
heads were turned round and hurried whispers were ex- 
changed among the crowd, but not one look of actual interest 
or compassion was bestowed upon him. The people's mind 
was centred on a far weightier matter. Such a trial was 
pending as had never yet been heard within the walls of a 
human tribunal, and such a captive was being questioned as 
never before gave answer to mortal man. With a sudden 
sense of relief, Barabbas, stupefied though he was, began 
dimly to realise that perhaps after all his terrors had been 
groundless ; there was no sign here, at least, not at present, 
of his death being wanted to make an extra holiday for the 
mob, and, infected by the prevailing spirit of intense cusiosity 
and attention, he craned his neck forward eagerly in order 
to obtain a view of what was going on. As he did so, the 
people directly in front of him shrank away in evident 
aversion, but he paid little heed to this mutely expressed 
repugnance, as their unanimous recoil made a convenient 
opening through which he could plainly see the judgment 
dais and all its imposing surroundings. There were seated 
several members of the Sanhedrim, several o/ whom he 
knew by sight, among them the high-priest Caiaphas, and 
his colleague Annas, a few scribes occupied lower benches 
and were busily engaged in writing, and among these digni- 
fied and exalted personages, he perceived, to his astonishment, 
a little lean, wrinkled, crouching money-changer, a man well 
known and cursed throughout all Jerusalem for his high 
rates of usury and cruelty to the poor. How came so mean 
a villain there ? thought Barabbas wonderingly ; but he could 
not stop to puzzle out the problem, for the chief person his 
eyes involuntarily sought for and rested upon was the Roman 
judge, that very judge of whose stern sad face he had 
dreamed in the darkness of his dungeon, Pilate the calm, 
severe, yet at times compassionate arbiter of life and death 
according to the codes of justice administered in Judaea. 
Surely to-day he suffered, or was weary ! for did ever legal 
" tyrant" before look so sick at heart ? In the grey morning 
light his features seemed to have an almost death-like rigidity 
and pallor his hand played absently with the jewelled signet 
depending from his breast, and beneath the falling folds of 
his robe of office, one sandalled foot beat impatiently upon 
6 2* 



18 BARABBAS 

the floor. Barabbas stared at him in dull fascination and 
f ear> he did not look a cruel so much as a melancholy man, 
and yet there was something in his classic profile, and in 
the firm lines of his thin closely compressed lips that augured 
little softness of character. What was likely to be his 
verdict on an assassin who had slain one of his friends? 
And while Barabbas vaguely pondered this, an irrepressible 
cry rose up all at once frwm the multitude around him, like 
the noise of breaking waters roaring in thunderous repeti- 
tions through the vaulted Hall, 

" Crucify him ! Crucify him !" 

The wild shout was furious and startling, and with, its 
thrilling clamour, the lethargic torpor that had held Barabbas 
more or less spell-bound was suddenly dispersed. With a 
swift shock he came to himself like one roughly shaken from 
sleep. 

" Crucify him !" 

Crucify whom? Whose life was thus passionately de- 
manded ? Not his ? No, not his, most surely, for the people 
scarcely heeded him. Their looks were all turned another 
way. Then if he were not the offender, who was ? 

Pushing himself yet more to the front, he followed the 
angry glances of the mob and saw, standing patiently below 
the judgment-seat one Figure, saw, and seeing, held his 
breath for very wonderment. For that Figure seemed to 
absorb into itself all the stateliness, all the whiteness, all the 
majesty of the lofty and spacious Tribunal, together with all 
the light that fell glimmeringly through the shining windows, 
light that now began to form itself into the promise rays 
of the rising sun. Such radiance, such power, such glorious 
union of perfect beauty and strength in one human form, 
Barabbas had never seen or imagined before, and he gazed 
and gazed till his soul almost lost itself in the mere sense of 
sight. Like one in a trance he heard himself whisper 

"Who is yonder Man?" 

No one answered. It may be no one heard. And he re- 
peated the query softly over and over again in his own mind, 
keeping his eyes fixed on that tall and god-like Being whose 
sublime aspect seemed to imply an absolute mastery over men 
and things, but who nevertheless waited there silently in 
apparent submission to the law, with a slight dreamy smile 
on the beautiful curved lips, and a patient expression in the 
down-dropt eyelids, as of one who mutely expected the publio 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 19 

declaration of what he had himself privately decreed. Still 
as a statue of sunlit marble He stood, erect and calm, His 
white garments flowing backward from His shoulders in even 
picturesque folds, thus displaying His bare rounded arms, 
crossed now on His breast in a restful attitude of resignation, 
yet in their very inertness suggesting such mighty muscular 
force as would have befitted a Hercules. Power, grandeur, 
authority, and invincible supremacy were all silently expressed 
in His marvellous and incomparable Presence, and while 
Barabbas still stared, fascinated, awed, and troubled in mind, 
though he knew not why, the shouts of the populace broke 
forth again with hoarser reiteration and more impatient fe- 
rocity, 

" Away with him ! Away with him ! Let him be cruci- 
fied !" 

And far back from the edge of the crowd, a woman's voice, 
sweet and shrill and piercing, soared up and rang out with a 
cruel music over all the deeper uproar, 

" Crucify him 1 Crucify him !" 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE clear vibration of the woman's cry acted like a strange 
charm to stimulate afresh the already feverish excitement of 
the people. A frenzied hubbub ensued, shrieks, yells, 
groans, and hisses filled the air, till the noise became abso- 
lutely deafening, and Pilate, with an angry and imperious 
gesture suddenly rose and faced the mob. Advancing to the 
front of the dais, he lifted up his hand authoritatively to 
command silence. Gradually the din decreased, dying off in 
little growling thuds of sound down to a few inaudible mut- 
terings, though before actual stillness was restored, the sweet 
soprano voice rang forth again melodiously, broken by a bub- 
bling ripple of laughter, 

"Crucify him !" 

Barabbas started. That silvery laugh struck to his heart 
coldly and made him shiver, surely he had heard an echo of 
such scornful mirth before? It sounded bitterly familiar. 
Pilate's keen eyes flashed a vain search for the unseen speaker, 



20 



BARABBAS 



then, turning towards the people with an air of pacific 
dignity, he demanded, 

" Why, what evil hath he done ?" 

This simple question was evidently ill-timed, and had a 
disastrous effect. The sole answer to it was a bellowing roar 
of derision, a thunderous clamour of wild rage that seemed 
to shake the very walls of the Tribunal. Men, women, and 
little children alike joined in the chorus of " Crucify him ! 
Crucify him 1" and the savage refrain was even caught up by 
the high-priests, elders, and scribes, who, in their various dis- 
tinctive costumes and with their several attendants, were 
grouped behind Pilate on the judgment dais. Pilate heard 
them, and turned sharply round, a dark frown knitting his 
brows. Caiaphas, the chief priest, met his eyes with a bland 
smile, and repeated under his breath "Crucify him!" as 
though it were a pleasing suggestion. 

" Of a truth it were well he should die the death," mur- 
mured Annas, his portly colleague, casting a furtive glance at 
Pilate from under his pale eyelashes ; " The worthy governor 
seemeth to hesitate, yet verily this traitor is no friend of 
Caesar's." 

Pilate vouchsafed no answer save a look of supreme and 
utter scorn. Shrugging his shoulders, he re-seated himself 
and gazed long and earnestly at the Accused. " What evil 
hath he done ?" It might have been more justly asked, what 
evil could He do ? Was there any mark of vileness, any line 
of treachery on the open beauty of that fair and lustrous 
Countenance? No. Nobleness and truth were eloquently 
declared in every feature ; moreover there was something in 
the silent Presence of the Prisoner that made Pilate tremble, 
something unspoken yet felt, a vast and vague Mystery 
that seemed to surround and invest Him with a power all the 
more terrific because so deeply hidden. And while the 
troubled procurator studied His calm and dignified bearing, 
and wondered doubtfully what course it were best to pursue, 
Barabbas from his coign of vantage stared eagerly in the 
same direction, growing more and more conscious of an un- 
usual and altogether wonderful fascination in the aspect of 
this Man the people sought to slay. And presently his vivid 
curiosity gave him courage to address one of the soldiers near 
him. 

"Prithee tell me," said he, "what captive King stands 
yonder?" 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 21 

The soldier gave a short contemptuous laugh. 

" King ! Ay, ay ! He calls himself King of the Jews, 
a sorry jest, for which his life will pay forfeit. He is 
naught but a carpenter's son, known as Jesus of Nazareth. 
He hath stirred up rebellion, and persuadeth the mob to dis- 
obey law. Moreover he consorteth with the lowest rascals, 
thieves and publicans and sinners. He hath a certain skill 
in conjuring; the people say he can disappear suddenly when 
most sought for. But he made no attempt to disappear last 
night, for we trapped him easily, close by Gethsemane. One 
of his own followers betrayed him. Some there be who deem 
him mad, some say he hath a devil. Devil or no, he is 
caught at last and must surely die." 

Barabbas heard in incredulous amazement. That royal- 
looking Personage a carpenter's son? a common working- 
man, and one of the despised Nazarenes? No, no! it was 
not possible ! Then, by degrees he began to remember that 
before he, Barabbas, had been cast into prison for robbery 
and murder, there had been strange rumours afloat in the 
country of Judaea, concerning one Jesus, a miracle-worker, 
who went about healing the sick and the infirm, giving sight 
to the blind, and preaching a new religion to the poor. It 
was even asserted that He had on one occasion raised a man 
named Lazarus from the dead after three days' burial in the 
ground, but this astounding report was promptly suppressed 
and contradicted by certain scribes in Jerusalem who made 
themselves generally responsible for the current news. The 
country people were known to be ignorant and superstitious, 
and any one possessing what was called " the gift of healing" 
in provinces where all manner of loathsome physical evils 
abounded, could obtain undue and almost supernatural influ- 
ence over the miserable and down-trodden inhabitants. Yet 
surely if this Man were He of whom rumour had spoken, 
then there seemed no reason to doubt the truth of the miracu- 
lous powers attributed to Him. He was Himself an em- 
bodied Miracle. And what were His powers actually ? Much 
had been said concerning the same Jesus of Nazareth of 
which Barabbas had no distinct recollection. His eighteen 
months of imprisonment had obliterated many things from 
his memory, and what he had chiefly brooded upon in his 
dreary dungeon had been his own utter misery, and the tor- 
turing recollection of one fair woman's face. Now, strange 
to say, he could find no room for any thought at all, save the 



22 BARABBAS 

impending fate of Him on whom Ms eyes were fixed. And 
as he looked, it seemed to him that all suddenly the judgment- 
hall expanded hugely and swam round in a circle of oright 
flame through which he saw that angelic white Figure shine 
forth with a thousand radiations of lightning-like glory ! A 
faint cry of terror broke from his lips, 

"No, no!" he stammered "No, I tell you! You can- 
not, you dare not crucify Him ! Yonder is a Spirit ! . . . 
no man ever looked so ... He is a god ! " 

As he uttered the word, one of the Roman soldiers hearing, 
turned and struck him fiercely on the mouth with his steel 
gauntlet. 

" Fool, be silent ! Wilt thou too be one of his disciples ?" 

Wincing with pain, Barabbas strove to wipe the trickling 
blood from his lips with his fettered hands, and as he did so, 
caught a straight full look from the so-called Jesus of Naza- 
reth. The pity and the tenderness of that look pierced him 
to the soul ; no living being had ever given him a glance so 
instantly comprehensive and sympathetic. With a quick 
reckless movement, he thrust himself more to the front of 
the crowd to gain a closer view of One who could so gently 
regard him. A passionate impulse of gratitude moved him 
to rush across the whole width of the hall, and fling himself 
in all his rough brute strength in front of this new-found 
Friend to serve as a human buckler of defence in case of 
need. But bristling weapons guarded him, and he was too 
closely surrounded for escape. Just at that moment, one of 
the scribes, a tall lean man in sober-coloured raiment, rose 
from his place in the semi-circle of priests and elders grouped 
on the judicial platform, and, unfolding a parchment scroll, 
began to read in a monotonous voice the various heads of the 
indictment against the Accused. These had been hastily 
summed up by the Sanhedrim, during the brief trial which 
had taken place in the house of Caiaphas the high-priest on 
the previous evening. A great stillness now reigned in lieu 
of the previous uproar ; a deep hush of suspense and atten- 
tion, in which the assembled mob seemed to wait and pant 
with expectation, as a crouching beast waits and pants for its 
anticipated prey. Pilate listened frowningly, one hand cover- 
ing his eyes. During the occasional pauses in the scribe's 
reading, the noise of traffic in the outside stony streets made 
itself distinctly audible, and once the sound of a little child's 
Voice singing came floating merrily upward like the echo of 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 23 

a joy-bell. The skies were changing rapidly from pearl-grey 
hues to rose and daffodil ; the sun was high above the hori- 
zon, but its light had not yet found a way through the lofty 
windows of the judgment-hall. It beamed on the crowd be- 
yond the barrier with iridescent flashes of colour, now flash- 
ing on a red erchief tying up a woman's hair, or on the 
glittering steel corslet of a Roman soldier, while the Tribunal 
itself was left in cold and unillumined whiteness, relieved only 
by the velvet hangings pertaining to it, which in their sombre 
purple tint suggested the falling folds of a funeral pall. 

The reading of the indictment finished, Pilate still remained 
silent for some minutes. Then, lifting his hand from his 
eyes, he surveyed, somewhat satirically, his companions in 
authority. 

" Ye have brought me this man as one that perverteth the 
people," he said slowly. " What accusation bring ye against 
him ?" 

Caiaphas, and Annas, who was then vice-president of the 
Sanhedrim, exchanged wondering and half indignant glances. 
Finally Caiaphas, with an expression of offended dignity, 
looked around appealingly upon his compeers. 

"Surely ye have all heard the indictment," he said, "And 
the worthy governor's question seemeth but vain in this mat- 
ter. What need we of further witnesses ? If yonder man 
were not a malefactor would we have brought him hither? 
He hath blasphemed ; for last night we did solemnly adjure 
him in the name of the living God, to declare unto us 
whether he were the Christ, the Son of the Blessed, and he 
answered boldly and said ' / am I And hereafter ye shall see 
the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power and coming 
in the clouds of heaven!' What think ye? Is he not 
worthy of death?" 

An emphatic murmur of assent went round the semi-circle 
of the priests and elders. But Pilate gave a gesture of con- 
tempt and flung himself restlessly back on the judgment-seat. 

"Ye talk in parables, and do perplex the ends of justice. 
If he himself saith he is the Son of Man, how do ye make 
him out to be the Son of God?" 

Caiaphas flushed an angry red, and was about to make 
some retort, but on a moment's reflection, suppressed his feel- 
ings and proceeded, smiling cynically 

" Of a truth thou art in merciful mood, Pilate, and thine 
Emperor will not blame thee for too much severity of rule ! 



24 ' BARABBAS 

In our law, the sinner that blasphemeth shall surely die. 
Yet if blasphemy be not a crime in thy judgment, what of 
treason ? Witnesses there are who swear that this man hath 
said it is not lawful to give tribute unto Caesar ; moreover he 
is an evil boaster, for he hath arrogantly declared that he will 
destroy the Holy Temple. Yea verily, even unto the Holy 
of Holies itself, he saith he will destroy, so that not one stone 
shall remain upon another, and in three days, without the 
help of hands, he will build up a new and greater tabernacle ! 
Such mad ranting doth excite the minds of the populace to 
rebellion, moreover he deceiveth the eyes of the vulgar and 
uninstracted by feigning to perform great miracles when all 
is but trickery and dissimulation. Finally, he hath entered 
Jerusalem in state as a King ;" here he turned to his col- 
league in office " Thou, Annas, can' st speak of this, for thou 
wert present when the multitude passed by." 

Annas, thus appealed to, moved a little forward, pressing 
his hands together, and casting down his pale-coloured treach- 
erous eyes with a deferential air of apologetic honesty. 

" Truly it would seem that a pestilence in this man's shape 
doth walk abroad to desolate and disaffect the province," said 
he, " For I myself beheld the people, when this traitor en- 
tered the city by the road of Bethphage and Bethany, rush 
forth to meet him with acclamations, strewing palm-branches, 
olive-boughs, and even their very garments in his path, as 
though he were a universal conqueror of men.* And shouts 
of triumph rent the air, for the multitude received him both 
as prophet and king, crying ' Hosanna ! Blessed is he that 
cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest? 
Whereat I marvelled greatly, and being troubled in^ mind, 
returned unto Caiaphas to tell him straightway those things 
which I had seen and heard concerning the strange frenzy of 
the mob which of a surety is dangerous to the maintenance of 
law and order. 'Tis an unseemly passion of the vulgar to 
thus salute with royal honour one of the accursed Nazarenes." 

"Is he in truth a Nazarene?" inquired one of the elders 
suddenly, with a dubious air, " I have heard it said that 
he was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, and that the late King 
Herod was told of certain marvels at his birth" 

" An idle rumour," interrupted Annas hastily ; " We took 
him before the tetrarch yesternight, where, had he chosen, he 
could have made his own defence. For Herod asked him 
many questions wlriih he could not or would not answer, till 



A DREAM. OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 25 

the noble tetrarch's patience failing, he sent him on to Pilate 
to be sentenced. He is known to be of Nazareth, for his 
parents have their home and calling in the village so named." 

Pilate listened, but said nothing. He was ill at ease. The 
statements of Caiaphas and Annas seemed to him a mere 
babble of words without meaning. He was entirely opposed 
to the members of the Sanhedrim ; he knew they were men 
who chiefly sought their own interest and advancement, and 
he also knew that the real cause of their having denounced 
the so-called " prophet of Nazareth," was fear, fear of 
having their theories shaken, their laws questioned, and their 
authority over the people denied. He saw in the dignified 
Prisoner before him, one, who, whatever He was, or wherever 
He came from, evidently thought for Himself. Nothing 
more terrorising to sacerdotal tyranny than liberty of thought ! 
nothing more dangerous than freedom of conscience and 
indifference to opinion ! Pilate himself was afraid, but not 
with the same dread as that which affected the Jewish priests, 
his misgivings were vague and undefined, and all the more 
difficult to overcome. He was strangely reluctant to even 
look at the " Nazarene," whose tall and radiant form appeared 
to shine with an inward and supernatural light amid the cold 
austerity of the judicial surroundings, and he kept his eyes 
down, fixed on the floor, the while he hesitatingly pondered 
his position. But time pressed, the Sanhedrim council were 
becoming impatient, he was at last compelled to act and to 
speak, and slowly turning round in his chair he fully con- 
fronted the Accused, who at the same instant lifted His noble 
head and met the anxious, scrutinising regard of His judge 
with an open look of fearless patience and infinite tenderness. 
Meeting that look, Pilate trembled, but anon, forcing him- 
self to assume an air of frigid composure, he spoke aloud in 
grave authoritative accents : 

" Answerest thon nothing? Hearest thou not how many 
things are witnessed against thee ? ' 

Then and only then, the hitherto immovable white-robed 
Figure stirred, and advancing with slow and regal grace, 
approached Pilate more nearly, still looking at him. One 
bright ray of the risen sun fell slantingly through a side- 
window and glistened star-like on the bronze-gold of the rich 
hair that clustered in thick waves upon His brow, and as He 
kept His shining eyes upon His judge, He smiled serenely 
even as one who pardons a sin before hearing its confession. 



26 BARABBAS 

But no word passed His lips. Pilate recoiled, an icy cold 
chilled the blood in his veins, involuntarily he rose, and fell 
back step by step, grasping at the carved gold projections of 
his judicial throne to steady his faltering limbs, for there was 
something in the quiet onward gliding of that snowy-gar- 
mented Shape that filled his soul with dread, and suggested 
to his mind old myths and legends of the past, when Deity 
appearing suddenly to men, had consumed them in a breath 
with the lightning of great glory. And that one terrific 
moment while he stood thus face to face with the Divine Ac- 
cused seemed to him an eternity. It was a never-to-be-for- 
gotten space of time in which all his life, past and present, 
appeared reflected as a landscape is reflected in a drop of dew, 
moreover, the premonition of a future, dark and desolate, 
loomed indistinctly upon his mind, like a shadow on the hori- 
zon. All unconsciously to himself his countenance paled to 
a ghastly haggardness, and scarcely knowing what he did, he 
raised his hands appealingly as though to avert some great 
and crushing blow. The learned Jews who were grouped 
around him stared at his terror-stricken attitude in wonder- 
ment, and exchanged glances of vexation and dismay, while 
one of the elders, a dark- eyed crafty- visaged man, leaned for- 
ward hastily and touched him on the shoulder, saying in a 
low tone 

"What ails thee, Pilate? Surely thou art smitten with 
palsy, or some delusion numbs thy senses ! Hasten, we be- 
seech thee, to pronounce sentence, for the hours wear on 
apace, and at this season of the Passover, 'twere well and 
seemly that thou should'st give the multitude their will. 
What is this malefactor unto thee ? Let him be crucified, 
for he is guilty of treason, since he calls himself a King. 
Full well thou knowest we have no King but Caesar, yet 
yonder fellow boldly saith he is King of the Jews. Ques- 
tion him, whether or no he hath not thus boasted falsely of 
power !" 

Pilate gazed round at his adviser bewilderedly, he felt as 
though he were entangled in the mazes of an evil dream 
where demons whispered dark hints of unworded crimes. 
Sick and cold to the very heart, he. yet realised that he must 
make an effort to interrogate the Prisoner as he was bidden, 
and, moistening his parched lips, he at last succeeded in 
enunciating the necessary query, albeit his accents were so 
faint and husky as to be scarcely audible. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 27 

"Art thou the King of the Jews .*" 

An intense silence followed. Then a full, penetrating 
Voice, sweeter than sweetest music, stirred the air. 

" Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee 
of me?" 

Pilate's face flushed, and his hand grasped the back of his 
chair convulsively. He gave a gesture of impatience, and 
answered abruptly, yet tremulously, 

" Am I a Jew f TJiine own nation and the chief priests 
have delivered thee unto me ; what hast thou done ? ' ' 

A light as of some inward fire irradiated the deep lustrous 
eyes of the " Nazarene ;" a dreamy, meditative smile parted 
His lips. Looking so, and smiling thus, His glorious aspect 
made the silence eloquent, and Pilate's authoritative demand 
" What hast thou done ?" seemed answered without speech. 
And the voiceless response might have been rendered into 
words like these, 

" What have I done ? I have made Life sweet, and robbed 
Death of bitterness ; there is honour for men and tenderness 
for women ; there is hope for all, Heaven for all, God for 
all ! and the lesson of Love, Love divine and human as 
personified in Me, sanctifies the Earth for ever through My 
Name!" 

But these great facts remained unuttered, for, as yet they 
were beyond dull mortal comprehension, and, with the faint 
dreamy smile still giving a poetic languor of deep thought to 
every line of His countenance, the Accused answered slowly, 
every word He spoke vibrating melodiously through the still- 



" My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were 
of this world then would my servants fight that I should not 
be delivered to the Jews. But now is my kingdom not from 
hence ! " < 

And, drawing His majestic figure up to its full height, 
He raised His head and looked up towards the loftiest window 
of the Hall, now glittering diamond-like in the saffron-tinted 
rays of the swiftly ascending sun. His attitude was so un- 
speakably grand and suggestive of power, that Pilate again 
recoiled, with that sickening sense of helpless terror clutch- 
ing at his heart anew. He stole a furtive and anxious glance 
at the chief priests and elders, who were leaning forward on 
their benches listening attentively, they all appeared un- 
moved and coldly indifferent. Caiaphas smiled satirically 



28 HARABBAS 

and exchanged a side-whisper with Annas, but otherwise no 
one volunteered to speak. Sorely against his will, Pilate 
continued his examination. Feigning an unconcern he was 
far from feeling, he asked his next question half carelessly, 
half kindly, 

" Art thou a King, then?" 

With a sublime gesture, the Accused flashed one burning 
glance upon all who waited breathlessly for His reply, then 
looked straightly and steadily, full into Pilate's eyes. 

" Thou sayest!" 

And, as he uttered the words, the sun, climbing to the 
topmost arch of the opposite window, beamed through it in 
a round blaze of glory, and flooded the judgment-hall with 
ripples of gold and crimson, circling the Divine brows with a 
glittering rainbow radiance as though the very heavens had 
set their crown and signet upon the splendour of a Truth 
revealed I 



CHAPTER V. 

THERE was a moment's pause. 

Pilate sat dumb and irresolute, but among the assembled 
members of the Sanhedrim there ran various broken mur- 
murs of indignation and impatience. " What need we of fur- 
ther vritness ?" " He is convicted out of his own mouth !" 
"He hath spoken treason!" " Let him die the death!" 
The sunlight, showering its prolific gold on the white gar- 
ments of the Prisoner, flashed into prismatic glimmerings now 
and again as though it had encountered some other light 
with which it joyously played and harmonised. And Pilate's 
sight grew misty and strained, his temples throbbed and 
ached. He was tired, confused, pained, and perplexed ; the 
extraordinary beauty of the Figure confronting him was too 
singularly unique to be otherwise than powerfully impressive, 
and he knew as thoroughly as ever mortal judge knew any- 
thing, that to condemn this Man to a hideous and unmerited 
death would be to commit a crime the consequences of which 
he could not quite foresee, but which he instinctively dreaded. 
He was perfectly aware of the active part the high-priests 
Caiaphas and Annas had played in the work of hunting down 
the " Nazarene" and bringing Him before the Tribunal, and 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 29 

he also realised the manner in which they had laid their 
plans. A certain wild and lawless young man named Is- 
cariot, the only son of his father, had banded himself with 
the disciples of this Jesus of Nazareth, and the elder Is- 
cariot, a wealthy usurer, was a close friend and confidant of 
Caiaphas. It was therefore not difficult to perceive how the 
father, prompted by the high-priest, and himself displeased at 
his son's sudden fanaticism for a stranger, had brought all 
the weight of religious and parental authority to bear in per- 
suading the young man to give up his so-called " Master" to 
justice. There were other far more deeply hidden motives 
than these of which Pilate was ignorant, but what little he 
knew, or thought he knew, was sufficient to make him dis- 
trust the unsupported witness of the priests and elders alone. 
Pondering the matter within himself a while, he presently 
turned to the council and demanded, 

" Where is Iscariot?" 

Anxious looks were exchanged, but no reply was offered. 

" Ye tell me it was he who brought the guard to where 
this Nazarene lay hidden," proceeded Pilate slowly "An' 
he hath taken so chief a part in the capture, he should be 
here. I would fain know what he hath to say concerning the 
doings of the man whom first he chose to follow and then 
forsake. Let him be brought before me." 

Annas leaned forward with an air of apologetic servility. 

" The young man hath fled from the city out of fear," said 
he ; " he hath been seized with some fool's panic, for lo, he 
came to us at late midnight, madly bemoaning his sins and 
bringing back the silver which we had given him as guerdon 
for his service and obedience to the law. Some evil fever 
surely worked within his blood, for while we yet gently rea- 
soned with him in hope to calm his frenzy, all suddenly he 
dashed the money down before us in the Temple and departed 
in haste, we know not whither." 

" Strange !" muttered Pilate abstractedly. The absence of 
Iscariot from the present scene of trial vexed him sorely. 
He had a strong desire to ask the man who had betrayed his 
Master the cause of his sudden disaffection, and now that this 
was impossible, he felt more jaded and worn-out than before. 
His head swam, and in the confused trouble of his mind, a 
great darkness seemed to grow up out of the air and envelop 
him swiftly and resistlessly. And in that darkness he fancied 
he saw a ring of fire which swung round and round like a 
3* 



30 BARABBAS 

rolling wheel, becoming narrower with every rotation and 
binding him in closely as with a burning zone. The horrible 
sensation increased, stifling his breath and blinding his eyes 
till he felt he must leap from his chair and cry aloud in order 
to save himself from suffocation, when, all at once, his 
nameless inward suffering ceased, a cool breath seemed to 
be wafted across his brow, and looking up, he saw that the 
deep and loving gaze of the Accused was fastened upon him 
with an infinity of tenderness and pity that opened to him, as 
it were, a new and exquisite and wondrous sense of life and 
limitless desire. For that one moment all his perplexities 
were swept away, and his course seemed clear. Turning 
to the chief priests and elders he said in firm emphatic 
tones, 

"I find no fault in this man ! " 

His words were received with a general movement of in- 
dignation, and Caiaphas losing all his wonted dignity, rose up 
in wrath exclaiming loudly, 

" No fault ! No fault ? Art thou mad, Pilate ? He stir- 
reth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry , beginning 
from Galilee to this place" 

"And look you," interposed Annas, craning his thin neck 
and ill-favoured visage forward, " He consorteth with none 
but outcasts, publicans and sinners, and against all the virtu- 
ous he pronounceth openly the damnation of hell. Here sit- 
teth the Rabbi Micha who hath heard him make outcry in 
the public streets, and hath taken note of certain sayings 
wherewith he seeketh to mislead the people. For he is one 
that perverteth truth while feigning most boldly to proclaim 
it. Speak, Micha, for it seemeth that the worthy governor 
needeth more witness than ours against this rogue and blas- 
phemer." 

Micha, an elderly Jew, with a keen, dark, withered face 
and hard cold eyes, rose at once and drew a set of tablets from 
his breast. 

" These words," said he in a dry even tone, " are veritably 
set down here as I received them with mine own ears while 
standing in the Temple itself. For this misguided and fanat- 
ical young man hesitated not to preach his unscrupulous 
theories in the established place of holy doctrine. Judge ye 
for yourselves whether such language be not violent," and 
bringing his memoranda close to his eyes, he read slowly 

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 31 

shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, and ye neither 
go in yourselves, nor suffer them that are entering to go in. 

li Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites I for ye 
devour widows' houses, for pretence making long prayer, 
therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 

" Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye 
compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is 
made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than your- 
selves ! 

" Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees ! hypocrites ! for ye 
are lilce unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beau- 
tiful outward, but are within full of dead mens bones and 
all uncleanness. 

" Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape 
the damnation of hell!" 

Here pausing, Micha looked up. 

" Of a truth," he remarked in the same monotone, "for 
one whom the country folk strive to screen by the spreading 
of false rumours concerning his gentle and harmless charac- 
ter, such words as these are mere raving devilry, and full of 
bitterness, spite, and malice prepense, set forth as wilful on- 
slaughts upon those who do maintain virtue, law, and order. 
Little gentleness will ye find in them, but much misguided 
vanity and spleen." 

A slight dawning smile lifted the rigid corners of Pilate's 
stern mouth. In his heart he secretly admired the magnifi- 
cent physical aud moral courage of a man who could boldly 
enter the Temple itself and thus plainly and publicly denounce 
hypocrisy in the very place where it was most practised. 

" I tell thee, good Micha. and thou, Caiaphas, and Annas 
also," he said decisively, " I find no fault in him at all, touch- 
ing those things whereof ye accuse him. No, nor yet Herod, 
for ye went to him last night, and lo, nothing worthy of 
death is found in him" 

" Stay, noble Pilate ! listen to me /" interrupted a queru- 
lous, cracked voice, and the little ape-like figure of the old 
usurer whom Barabbas had, to his surprise, perceived occu- 
pying a prominent place on one of the judgment-benches, 
rose up in tremulous excitement " Listen I pray thee ! for 
art not thou set here to administer justice to the wronged and 
oppressed in Judaea? Look you, most excellent sir! this 
malefactor, this accursed devil, this vile traitor and deceiver" 
here the wrinkled old wretch gasped and sputtered for 



32 BARABBAS 

breath in the sheer extremity of rage, " this pretended 
prophet came insolently into the Temple two days agone and 
saw me there at my accustomed place, thou knowest, noble 
Pilate, I am an honest poor man ! and lo, like a furious 
madman he seized me, ay, and he hath a clutch like iron ! 
and taking up a whip of knotted cords scourged me, great 
Pilate ! scourged me, me!" and his voice rose to a shrill yell 
of fury " out of the holy place ! And his mouth was full 
of blasphemy and cursing, for be said, ' My house is called 
the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves /' 
Mark that, worthy Pilate ! he did claim the very Temple as 
his own, even as he hath claimed to be King of the Jews, and 
hath sought to reign over all Judaea. Crucify him, noble 
governor ! crucify him in the name of God ! And scourge 
him ! scourge him till the proud and sinful blood flows in 
torrents from his veins ! scourge him, for he hath scourged 
one of the children of Levi, yea, he hath scourged me, even 
me! 1 ' Here he stopped, half choked with malice and fury, 
while Pilate regarded him, coldly smiling. 

" Verily, Zacharias, thou tellest me of one good service 
this man hath rendered the state," he said, deliberately 
"Long hast thou merited a whipping, and that thou hast at 
last received it will help to satisfy some few of thy money 
clients in Jerusalem !" An involuntary murmur of approving 
laughter broke from some of the members of the council, but 
was quickly suppressed as the high-priest frowned darkly upon 
the offenders. Zacharias shrank back, scowling and mutter- 
ing, while Pilate calmly continued " More than ever am I 
persuaded that there is no evil in this youthful preacher to 
the poor, and no fault at all worthy of death, wherefore as ye 
have a custom at this Feast requiring the liberation of a 
prisoner, I will release him unto you and let him go." 

"The multitude will rend thee, Pilate, for an act so im- 
politic !" exclaimed Caiaphas hotly " What ! shall an inno- 
cent man like this aged Zacharias, who hath no fault save the 
common fault of his trade, be publicly scourged, and thou 
the governor of Judaea find no remedy ? Thou art no friend 
to Caesar if thou let this man go. Moreover they demand 
the release of Barabbas, who hath been imprisoned for more 
than a year, and whose sin of rebellion was one of impulse, 
not of malignant intention. He hath been brought hither by 
my order, and waits below the barrier, guarded, but prepared 
for freedom." 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 33 

" Then he is ill prepared !" declared Pilate sharply " For 
by all the gods of Rome he shall be crucified 1 Freedom for 
Barabbas ? Have ye no memory ? Did he not raise an in- 
surrection against Roman law, and harangue the people in the 
open streets far more wildly and arrogantly than this harm- 
less Nazarene hath done? And did he not slay all unpro- 
vokedly one of your own tribe, Gabrias the Pharisee, a man 
of excellent learning and renown ? Go to ! Envy doth 
prompt ye to demand the nobler life and give liberty to the 
vile, and ye have sorely misguided the mob in this matter. 
But now will I myself address them, and release unto them 
him whom they call King of the Jews." 

And, rising from his chair he prepared to descend from the 
Tribunal. Caiaphas made a hasty step forward as though to 
prevent his movements, but Pilate waved him aside disdain- 
fully, and he stood rooted to the spot, the picture of baffled 
rage and dismay, his thin white hands nervously clenched, 
and the great jewel on his breast heaving up and down with 
the passionate quickness of his breathing. Annas sat still 
in his place, utterly taken aback by the governor's decision, 
and stared fixedly in front of him as though he found it diffi- 
cult to believe the evidence of his senses. Zacharias the 
money-lender alone pave violent vent to his feelings by throw- 
ing up his hands wildly in the air and anon beating his breast, 
the while he loudly bewailed himself 

" Ai ! ai ! There is no justice left in Jerusalem ! Woe, 
woe unto the children of Abraham who are ground down be- 
neath the iron heel of Rome ! Woe unto us who are made 
the spoil of the heathen tyrant and oppressor!" 

And as he thus raved and rocked his lean body to and fro, 
the Divine Prisoner suddenly turned and regarded him steadily. 
A rapid change came over his wicked features, he ceased 
yelling, and drawing himself together in a wrinkled heap 
till he looked like some distorted demon, he began to mutter 
curses in a thick whisper that was more awful than any au- 
dible speech. The "Nazarene" watched him for a moment, 
a noble wrath clouding the fairness of His brows, but the 
shadow of righteous indignation passed even more swiftly 
than it had come, leaving His face serene and smiling and 
patient as before. Only the bright pure Eyes were more 
steadily uplifted to the sunlight, as though they sought to 
drink in glory for sustenance. Meanwhile, an old, white- 
bearded man, a prominent and much-respected member of the 



34 SARABBAS 

Sanhedrim, interposed, and pulling the mouthing Zacharias 
back to his place with a stern injunction to be silent, he him- 
self ventured to address Pilate in calm conciliatory accents.) 

" Believe me, worthy Pilate, thou art not altogether wise 
in this matter. Why, for the sake of one man wilt thou give 
cause of offence to both the priests and people ? A rebellious 
rogue and murderer such as Barabbas hath proved himself to 
be, is far less dangerous to the community than yonder young 
Teacher of new doctrines, who out of very arrogance, arising 
perchance from the consciousness of a certain superior physi- 
cal force and outward beauty, doth maintain himself thus 
boldly, striving to terrorise thee and avert true justice. Lo, 
there are many such as he among the wandering Egyptian 
aliens, who, by reason of an imposing presence, and a certain 
vague sublimity of speech, do persuade the less crafty to be- 
lieve in their supernatural powers. Look you, even Barabbas 
himself hath assumed this same imperial attitude when ha- 
ranguing the mob and inciting the idle and disaffected to riot- 
ing and disorder, for he hath been a student of many books 
and speaketh with the tongue of eloquence. Nevertheless 
none of the rebellious have presumed so far as this misguided 
Nazarene, who, forsaking his trade, and collecting about him 
the veritable scum of Judaea (witli the exception of Iscariot 
who is well connected, and whose fanaticism for this man 
hath sorely grieved his father) doth pretend to open Heaven 
only to the poor and vile. He hath declared it easier for a 
oamel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man 
to enter the Kingdom of God ! Wherefore, by such exag- 
gerated parable he doth imply that even imperial Caesar shall 
not escape damnation. Should such teachings prevail there 
will be an end of all restraint in Judaea, and thine Emperor 
will most surely blame thee for thy lack of discipline. Take 
heed, good Pilate ! mercy is nobly becoming in thee, but 
with mercy, forget not judgment!" 

Pilate listened to this little homily with manifest reluc- 
tance and impatience, and his level brows drew together in a 
worried frown. After a pause ho said irritably, 

" Take ye him then and judge him according to your law ! " 

Caiaphas turned upon him indignantly. 

" It is not lawful for us to put any man to death,' 1 he 
answered haughtily "Thou are the governor, and to thee 
we are compelled to look for justice." 

At that moment there was a slight stir and movement in 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 35 

the waiting crowd beyond the barrier, and people were seen 
to be making way for the entrance of a new-comer. Thi^ 
was a slim, dark-eyed youth of a graceful form and delicate 
beauty, he was gorgeously attired in a silken garment of 
pale blue, bound about him with a scarlet girdle and richly 
embroidered in gold and silver. He advanced in haste, ye\, 
timidly, and as he crossed the judgment-hall, cast an anxious 
and awe-stricken look at the stately figure of the " Nazarene." 
Pilate watched his approach with a good deal of surprise and 
impatience, he recognised his wife's favourite page, and won- 
dered what had brought him thither at such a time and in so 
unaccustomed a place. Arriving at the judgment dais the 
youth dropped on one knee and proffered a folded scroll. 
Snatching it in haste, Pilate opened it and uttered a smoth- 
ered exclamation. It was from his wife, one of the most 
beautiful of Roman women, known in the city for her haughty 
and fearless disposition, and for her openly pronounced con- 
tempt for the manners and customs of the Jews. And what 
she had written now ran simply thus, 

" Have thou nothing to do with that just man, for I have 
suffered many things this day in a dream because of him." 

With an abrupt sign of dismissal to the page, who at once 
retired by the way he had come, Pilate crushed the missive 
in his hand and sat lost in thought. Hound the Tribunal, 
the sunshine spread in a sea of gold, a bell striking the hour, 
slowly chimed on the deep stillness, the white-robed figure 
of the Accused stood waiting as immovably as a sculptured 
god in the midst of the dazzling beams of the morning, 
and through Pilate's brain the warning words of the woman 
he loved more than all the world sent jarring hammer-strokes 
of repetition 

"Have thou nothing to do with that just man!" 



CHAPTER VI. 

IP he could have prolonged his deliberations thus for ever 
it would have seemed to him well. He was not actually con- 
scious of time. Something vast, indefinite, and eternal ap- 
peared to surround and make of him but a poor, helpless, 
stupid block of perishable humanity, unfit to judge, unfit to 



36 BARABBAS 

rule. He felt as though he had aged suddenly, as though 
a score of years had passed in withering haste over his head 
since the " Nazarene" had confronted him as a prisoner wait- 
ing to be condemmed. And with this mysterious sense of 
inward age and incapacity freezing his very blood, he had 
the goading consciousness that all the members of the Sanhe- 
drim council were watching him, wondering at his indecision 
and impatiently expecting judgment on what to them was a 
matter of perfectly plain common-sense and social justice, 
but which to him had assumed almost gigantic proportions of 
complexity and trouble. At last, with an effort, he arose, 
and gathering his robes about him, again prepared to descend 
from the Tribunal. With a half-appealing, half authoritative 
gesture he beckoned the Accused to follow him. He was 
instantly obeyed, and the Man of Nazareth walked patiently 
yet proudly after His judge whose trailing garment served to 
sweep the ground for the passing of His footsteps. In the 
rear of the twain came all the priests and elders, whispering 
together and shaking their heads over the Roman governor's 
incomprehensible conduct, and after them in turn the crooked- 
limbed and evil-visaged usurer, Zacharias, shuffled along, sup- 
porting himself on a stick of which the knob was heavily 
encrusted with gold and jewels, this one piece of gorgeous- 
ness being in curious contrast to the rest of his otherwise 
beggarly attire. And as the whole vari-coloured group 
moved forward, a murmur of satisfaction and interest hummed 
through the expectant multitude, at last the long-deferred 
sentence was to be finally pronounced. 

Arrived within a few feet of the barrier which divided the 
judicial precincts from the common hall, Pilate paused. 
Lifting up his voice so that it might be heard on the very 
outskirts of the throng, he addressed himself to the people, 
at the same time pointing to the regal Figure standing a little 
way behind him. 

" Behold your King /" 

Yells of derisive laughter answered him, intermingled 
with hooting and hisses. Caiaphas smiled disdainfully, and 
Annas appeared to be convulsed with a paroxysm of silent 
mirth. Pilate's glance swept over them both with a supreme 
and measureless scorn. He loathed the Jewish priests, their 
ritual and their doctrine, and made no secret of his ab- 
horrence. Holding up one hand to enjoin silence he again 
appealed to the irritated and impatient mob. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 37 

" / have examined this man before you" he said, in de- 
liberate far-reaching accents, " and I find in Mm no fault 
worthy of death." 

Here he paused, and a sudden hush of stupefaction and 
surprise fell on the listening crowd. The governor resumed, 

" But ye have a custom that I should release unto you one 
at the Passover ; will ye therefore that I release unto you the 
4 King of the Jews ? " 

A roar of furious denial interrupted and drowned his voice. 

" Not this man .'" 

" Not this man, but Barabbas /" 

"Barabbas!" "Barabbas!" 

The name was caught and taken up by the people as 
though it were a shout of triumph, and echoed from mouth 
to mouth till it died away of itself in the outer air. Pilate 
stepped back, disappointed and irate, he realised the position. 
The populace had evidently been intimidated by the priests, 
and had come prepared to stand by their monstrous demand, 
the life of a notorious criminal in place of that of an 
innocent man. And they had a certain right to enforce their 
wishes at the season of Passover. With a short vexed sigh, 
Pilate flashed a searching glance over the now closely serried 
ranks of the people. 

" Where is Barabbas ?" he demanded impatiently " Bring 
him forth 1" 

There was a moment's delay, and then Barabbas, wild- 
eyed, uncouth, half starved and almost naked, yet not with- 
out a certain defiant beauty in his fierce aspect, was thrust 
to the front between two armed soldiers of the Roman guard. 
Pilate eyed him with strong disfavour, Barabbas returned 
him scornful glance for glance. Conscious that the attention 
of the mob was now centred upon him, the whole soul of the 
long-imprisoned and suffering man rose up in revolt against 
the " Roman tyrant," as Pilate was not unfrequently called 
by the disaffected Jews, and the old pride, rebellion, and 
lawlessness of his disposition began to make new riot in his 
blood. If it had not been for the wondrous, almost luminous 
Figure that maintained such an attitude of regal calm close 
at hand, Barabbas felt that he would have willingly struck 
his judge on the mouth with the very gyves that bound his 
wrists together. As it was, he remained motionless, his 
eyes blazing forth anger, his bare brown chest heaving 
quickly with the irregular fluctuations of his passionate 
4 



38 B ARABS AS 

breath, and in that attitude he might have stood as a repre- 
sentative type of strong, barbaric, untaught, untamed Hu- 
manity. Facing him was the sublime contrast, Divinity, 
the grand Ideal, the living symbol of perfect and spirit- 
ualised Manhood, whose nature was the nearest akin to God, 
and who for this very God-likeness was deemed only worthy 
of a criminal's death. Some glimmering idea of the mon- 
strous incongruity between himself and the silent Accused, 
struck Barabbas forcibly even while he confronted Pilate 
with all that strange effrontery which is sometimes born of 
conscious guilt ; and the thought crossed his brain that, if in 
agreement to the public voice he were indeed released, the 
first use he would make of his liberty would be to persuade 
the people to mercy on behalf of this kingly-looking Man, 
whose noble aspect exerted on his dark and tortured soul 
a secret, yet potent spell. And while this idea was in his 
mind, Pilate, steadily regarding him, spoke out with harsh 
brevity 

" So ! Thou did'st slay Gabrias the Pharisee ?" 

Barabbas smiled disdainfully. 

" Yea ! And so would I slay another such an one, could 
there be found in all the city so great a liar !" 

Pilate turned to the high-priests and elders. 

" Hear ye him ? Yet" this is the man ye would set at 
liberty? Impenitent and obstinate, he hath no sense of 
sorrow for his crime, how then doth he merit pardon ?" 

Caiaphas, vaguely embarrassed by the question, lowered 
his eyes for a second, then raised them, conveying into his 
long thin face an admirably affected expression of serious 
pity and forbearance. 

" Good Pilate," he replied blandly and in a low tone, 
" Thou knowest not the whole truth of this affair. Barabbas 
hath indeed been guilty of much sin, but look you, his evil 
passions were not roused without a cause. We, of the Holy 
Temple, are prepared to instruct him how best his crime may 
be expiated in the sight of the Most High Jehovah, and his 
offering shall not be rejected but received at the altar. For 
the ill-fated Gabrias, though eminent in learning and of good 
renown, had a hasty and false tongue, and it is commonly 
reported that he did most vilely slander a virtuous maiden of 
this city whom Barabbas loved." 

Pilate lifted his eyebrows superciliously. 

" These are but base pandering matters," he said, " where- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLDS TRAGEDY 39 

with thou, Caiaphas, should' st have nought to do. And 
Gabrias surely was not the only possessor of a false tongue ! 
Thy words savour of a woman's tale-bearing and are of idle 
purport. Murder is murder, theft is theft, excuses cannot 
alter crimes. And this Barabbas is likewise a robber." 

And again confronting the multitude, he reiterated his 
previous demand in a more directly concise form. 

" Which will ye that I release unto you ? Barablas or 
Jesus which is called Christ ? " 

With one accord the populace responded tumultuously, 

"Barabbas!" " Barabbas !" 

Pilate gave a gesture which might have meant despair or 
indignation or both, and turned a wistful look over his 
shoulder at the " Nazarene," who at the moment seemed 
absorbed in grave and tranquil meditation, of which the 
tenor must have been pleasing, for He smiled. 

Once more Pilate addressed the crowd. 

" What will ye tlien that I do unto Him whom ye call the 
King of the Jews ?" 

" Crucify him /" " Crucify him /" 

The answer came in yells and shrieks of rage, but above all 
the frantic din, there rose that one silver flute-like woman's 
voice that had been heard before 

"Crucify Jam!" 

Barabbas started at the sound as a race-horse starts at 
the prick of a spur. Wildly he looked about him, with an 
almost ravenous glitter in his eyes he scanned the shouting 
throng, but could discover no glimpse of the face he longed 
yet feared to see. And, yielding to a nameless attraction, he 
brought his wandering glances back, back to the spot where 
the sunlight seemed to gather in a fiery halo round the form 
of Him who as Pilate had said was "called Christ." What 
was the meaning of the yearning love and vast pity that was 
suddenly reflected in that fair Countenance ? What delicate 
unspoken word hovered on the sensitive lips, arched like a 
bow and tremulous with feeling? Barabbas knew not, but 
it suddenly seemed to him that his whole life with all its 
secrets good and evil, lay bare to the gaze of those soft yet 
penetrating eyes that met his own with such solemn warning 
and tender pathos. 

"No, no!" he cried loudly on a swift inexplicable impulse 
" She did not speak ! She could not thus have spoken ! 
Women are pitiful, not cruel, she seeks no man's torture ! 



40 BARABBAS 

people of Jerusalem !" he continued, his deep voice gath- 
ering a certain sonorous music of its own, as, turning him- 
self about he faced the crowd " Why do ye clamour for 
this prophet's death ? Surely he hath not slain a man among 
ye, neither hath he stolen your goods nor broken into your 
dwellings. Rumour saith he hath healed ye in your sick- 
ness, comforted ye in your sorrows, and performed among ye 
many wondrous miracles, so ye yourselves report, wherefore 
then for these things should he die? Are ye not just? 
have ye not the gift of reason ? Lo, it is I who merit pun- 
ishment ! I, who slew Gabrias and rejoice in mine iniquity ! 
and look you, I, blood-stained, guilty, and impenitent, de- 
serve my death, whereas this man is innocent 1" 

Shouts of derisive laughter and applause and renewed 
cries of " Barabbas I Barabbas ! Release unto us Barabbas !" 
were the only result of his rough eloquence. 

" Stop his mouth !" exclaimed Annas angrily " He must 
be mad to prate thus !' ' 

" Mad or no, ye have yourselves elected him for freedom" 
observed Pilate composedly " Mayhap ye will now re- 
tract, seeing he hath shown a certain generosity towards yon 
defenceless Nazareue 1" 

While he spoke, there was a threatening movement of the 
mob towards the bairier, the line of Roman soldiery swayed 
as though it were likely to be broken through by superior 
force, and a multitude of hands were tossed aloft in air and 
pointed at the unmoved patient figure of the Christ. 

' ' Crucify him ! Crucify him !' ' 

Pilate advanced swiftly, close to the ranks of the turbulent 
populace, and demanded sternly, 

"Shall I crucify your King ?" 

Amid a chorus of groans and hisses, more than a hundred 
voices gave reply, 

" We have no king but Caesar !" 

_ " Verily, by thy hesitancy, Pilate, thou wilt have the whole 
city in tumult !" said Caiaphas reproachfully. " Seest thou 
not the mob are losing patience?" 

At that moment a tall man whose grizzled head was 
adorned with a showy scarlet turban, detached himself from 
the rest of the throng and stood boldly forward, exclaiming 
in loud excited tones 

" We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because 
me made himself the Son of God!" 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 41 

As he heard these words, Pilate retreated some few steps 
away from the barrier, with the strange stunned sense of 
having been struck a sharp blow from an invisible hand ! 
The Son of God ! Such an assertion was assuredly blasphe- 
mous, if indeed the Accused had asserted it. But this was 
just what Pilate doubted. When Caiaphas had previously 
spoken of it, he had received the report with contempt, be- 
cause he knew the high-priest would stop at no falsehood, 
provided his own immediate ends were thereby attained. But 
now that one of the populace had come forward with the same 
accusation, Pilate was forced to look at it in a different light. 
After all, he was set in his place to administer justice to the 
Jews, and in the Jewish law blasphemy was regarded as a 
crime almost worse than murder. He, Pilate himself, as a 
citizen of Rome, took a different and much lighter view of 
the offence. For the Roman deities were all so mixed, and 
so much worse than human in their vengeances and illicit 
loves, that it was not always easy to perceive anything more 
lofty in the character of a god than in that of a man. Any 
warrior who had won renown for fierce brute courage and 
muscular prowess, might report himself in Rome as the son 
of a god without affronting popular feeling, and in time, 
many-mouthed Tradition would turn his lie into a seeming 
truth. And in that mysterious land through which the Nile 
made its languid way, did not travellers speak with awe and 
wonderment of the worship of Osiris, the incarnate god in 
human semblance ? The idea was a popular one, it arose 
from an instinctive desire to symbolise the divine in humanity, 
and was a fable common to all religions, wherefore there 
seemed to be little actual harm in the fact of this dreamy- 
looking poetic young philosopher of Nazareth seeking to as- 
sociate himself with the favourite myths of the people, if 
indeed, he did so associate himself. And Pilate, his thoughts 
still busy with the romances told of the gods in Egypt, beck- 
oned the Accused towards him. His signal was complied 
with, and the " Nazarene" moved quietly up to within reach 
of His judge's hand. Pilate surveyed Him with renewed 
interest and curiosity, then in a low tone of friendly and 
earnest appeal, asked, 

"From whence art thou ?" 

No verbal answer was vouchsafed to him, only a look; 
and in the invincible authority and grandeur of that look 
there was something of darkness and light intermingled, 
4* 



42 BARABBAS 

something of the drear solemnity of the thunder-cloud before 
the lightning leaps forth, sword-like, to destroy. A great 
anguish and foreboding seized Pilate's soul, with all the 
force of his being he longed to cry out, to give voice to his 
secret trouble, and to openly express before priests and people 
his abhorrence and rejection of the judicial task he was set 
to do. But all words seemed strangled in his throat, and a 
desperate sense of hopelessness and helplessness paralysed his 
will. 

"Speakest thou not unto me?" he continued, in accents 
that were hoarse and tremulous with excess of feeling ; 
"Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and 
power to release thee T ' 

Still steadily the large lustrous eyes regarded him, with 
something of compassion now in their glance, and after a 
moment's pause, the rich full voice once more cast music on 
the air. 

" Thou couldest have no power at all against me except it 
were given thee from above /" Then, with a slight sigh of 
pity and pardon: "Therefore, he that delivered me unto thee 
hath the greater sin." 

And the penetrating look flashed upward from Pilate to 
the tall rigid form of Caiaphas, who shrank from it as though 
suddenly scorched by a flying flame. Pilate, more than ever 
impressed by the air of command, power, and entire fearless- 
ness expressed in the whole demeanour of the Prisoner, once 
again began to puzzle his brain with the recollection of the 
various stories that were current concerning Egypt, stories 
of exiled monarchs, who, banished from their realms by an 
untoward series of events or for some self-imposed religious 
intention, went wandering about in all the countries of the 
world, teaching the mystic wisdom of the East, and perform- 
ing miracles of healing. Was it not probable that this young 
Preacher, so unlike the Jewish race in the fair openness and 
dignity of His countenance, the clear yet deep dark blue of 
His eyes, and the wonderfully majestic yet aerial poise of His 
figure, might, notwithstanding the popular report of His ple- 
beian origin, after all be one of these discrowned nomads ? 
This idea gained on Pilate's fancy, and impelled by its influ- 
ence he asked for the second time, 

"Art thou a King?" 

And by marked accentuation of the question he sought to 
imply that if such were the original distinction of the Cap- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 43 

tive, release might yet be obtained. But the " Nazarene" 
only gave a slight sigh of somewhat wearied patience as He 
replied, 

" THOU sayest that I am a King /" Then, apparently moved 
by commiseration for the vacillating perplexity of His judge, 
He continued gently, " To this end was I born and for this 
end came I into the world, That I should bear witness unto 
the Truth! Every one that is of the Truth knoweth my 
voice." 

While He thus spoke, Pilate gazed upon Him in solemn 
astonishment. Here was no traitor or criminal, but simply 
one of the world's noblest madmen ! More convincing than 
all the other accusations brought against Him by priests and 
people was His own unqualified admission of folly. For 
whosoever sought to " bear witness unto the Truth" in a 
world kept up by lies could not be otherwise than mad ! Had 
it not always been thus? And would it not always be thus? 
Had not the Athenian Socrates met his death nearly five 
hundred years agone for merely uttering the Truth ? Pilate, 
more instructed than the majority in Greek and Roman phi- 
losophy, knew that no fault was so reprehensible in all classes 
of society as simple plain-speaking ; it was almost safer to 
murder a man than tell the truth of him ! Thus thinking 
he gave a hopeless gesture of final abandonment to destiny ; 
and with an ironical bitterness he was scarcely conscious 
of, uttered the never to-be-forgotten, never-to-be-answered 
query 

" What is Truth?" 

Then, glancing from the Accused to the accusers, from the 
priests to the people, from the people in turn to Barabbas, 
who waited before him sullenly expectant, he sighed impa- 
tiently, and with the desperately resolved air of one compelled 
to perform the very act his soul most abhorred, he beckoned 
to a clerk in attendance and gave him a whispered order. 
The man retired, but returned almost immediately bearing a 
large silver bowl filled with pure water. Flinging back his 
rich robe of office and allowing it to trail in voluminous folds 
behind him, Pilate, closely followed by the attendant carrying 
the silver vessel, stepped forward again to confront the populace 
who were becoming more contentious aud noisy with every 
moment's delay. On perceiving the governor's advance, how- 
ever, they ceased their turbulent murmurings and angry dis- 
putations, and concentrated all their attention upon him, the 



44 BARABBAS 

more particularly as his movements were somewhat strange 
and unexpected. Rolling up his gold-embroidered sleeves 
well above his wrists, he raised his bare hands aloft and 
showed them, palms outward, to the multitude, the great 
jewels on his fingers flashing like stars in the morning sun. 
He held them so uplifted for a minute's space, while the 
people, wondering, looked on in silence, then, slowly lower- 
ing them, he dipped them deep in the shining bowl, rinsing 
them over and over again in the clear cold element which 
sparkled in its polished receptacle like an opal against fire. 
And as he shook the bright drops away from him, he cried in 
a loud penetrating voice 

" lam innocent of the blood of this Just person ! See ye to 
it!" 

The multitude shouted and yelled. They understood and 
accepted the position. Their Roman judge publicly declined 
all responsibility in the matter, even so let it be ! but they, 
they the elect of God, the children of Judaea, eagerly em- 
braced, and not for the first time in their annals, the right- 
eous opportunity of slaying the innocent. And with one 
mighty roar they responded, men and women alike, 

" His blood be upon us and on our children /" 

The hideous, withering, irrevocable Curse rose shudder- 
ingly up to Heaven, there to be inscribed by the Recording 
Angel in letters of flame as the self-invoked Doom of a 
people. 



CHAPTER VII. 

AFTER this nothing more could be said. An ignorant and 
callous mob has neither justice, reason, nor pity, yet the pop- 
ular verdict had to be accepted as final. No appeal could b& 
made against such a grimly resolved and unanimous decision. 
Pilate saw that had he still ventured to plead the cause of 
the Divine Accused, the impatience of the crowd, strained to 
its last limit, would probably break out in riot and bloodshed. 
He therefore, like a man driven along by a resistless whirl- 
wind, sacrificed his own will to the desire of the people, and 
Caiaphas, seeing that he had at last yielded to the force of 
necessity, heaved a sigh of relief. Hesitation was at an end, 
Man of Naiareth was to die the death. And the great 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 45 

high-priest murmured his satisfaction in the ear of his friend 
Annas, who listened servilely, rubbing his fat hands together 
and every now and then rolling up his small treacherous eyes 
in pious thanksgiving, thanksgiving that the Holy City of 
Jerusalem was to be finally freed from the troublous and 
alarming presence of the " Nazarene." 

" Once dead," whispered Caiaphas, with a contemptuous 
side-glance at the fair-faced enemy of his craft, the silent 
" Witness unto the Truth" " and, moreover, slain with dis- 
honour in the public sight, he will soon sink out of remem- 
brance. His few disciples will be despised, his fanatical 
foolish doctrine will be sneered down, and we, we will take 
heed that no chronicle of his birth or death or teaching re- 
mains to be included in our annals. A stray street preacher 
to the common folk ! how should his name endure ?" 

" Nay, it shall not endure," returned Annas with an unctu- 
ous air of perfect assurance " Thou, most holy and exalted 
Caiaphas, hast ever dwelt too ardently upon this fellow's 
boasting. Many there are, such as he, who thus idly vaunt 
themselves, and swear that though unknown and all un- 
honoured by their own generation, they shall be acclaimed 
great and wonderful hereafter. Arrogant philosophers prate 
thus, mad poets who string rhymes as children string beads, 
and call such fool's work valuable, heretical thinkers too of 
all degrees, yet lo, their vaunting comes to naught ! Verily, 
if History make no mention of this man, who will believe 
he ever lived !" 

Caiaphas smiled coldly. 

"Little word will there be of him in History," said he. 
" For his crazed followers are ignorant of letters, and our 
scribes must write only what we shall bid them !" 

Part of this low-toned conversation was overheard by 
Zacharias, the old usurer, and he nodded emphatic approval, 
laughing silently the while. The condemnatory sentence 
passed on the immortal Captive by the Jewish populace was 
balm to his mean and miserable soul, he rejoiced in it as in 
some excellent and satisfying jest, and he struck his jewelled 
stick now and then on the pavement, with an ecstatic thump, 
by way of giving outward expression to his inwardly gratified 
feeling. Pilate, meantime, having, by the washing of his 
hands before the people, openly signified his repugnance and 
refusal to personally participate in the crime (for so he truly 
considered it) about to be committed, proceeded with the rest 



46 BARABBAS 

of his enforced duty in feverish haste and something of horror. 
Nothing could now be done quickly enough to please him, 
he grew nervous and excited, a shamed flush at times burned 
in his cheeks, and anon he grew ghastly pale again, every 
line of his features becoming drawn and livid as the features 
of the dead, and in all his hurried movements he carefully 
avoided turning his eyes towards the Man Condemned. At 
his abrupt signal some twenty soldiers with drawn weapons 
surrounded the grand white Figure that stood, divinely silent, 
in the glory of the morning sun, coarse-visaged, squat-bodied 
men who laughed and swore among themselves as they eyed 
their Prisoner up and down and made mocking comments on 
His stately and unmoved bearing. He Himself appeared 
to be almost unconscious of their proximity, some happy 
fancy seemed to hover, spirit-like, across His mind, for judging 
by His radiant aspect, He might have been a crowned Apollo 
dreaming of realms wherein His smile alone created light and 
sound and life. And in the same moment that the military 
cohort thus fenced Him in with their bristling spears, the two 
soldiers who had guarded Barabbas until now retired to the 
rear, leaving their man to receive his formal release at the 
hands of the governor. Alone, facing Pilate, Barabbas 
waited, the iron manacles still weightily dragging down his 
arms and showing where their long and corroding pressure 
had bruised and cut the flesh beneath. He was giddy with 
fatigue and excitement, but his black eyes were brilliant, and 
every nerve and muscle in his body thrilled to the rapturous 
thought of liberty. His suspense did not last long, for Pilate 
was now in no humour for delays. Snatching from an attend- 
ant officer the implement used for such purposes, he struck at 
the heavy links of the rescued criminal's chains with such 
irate violence that they were soon parted asunder and fell, 
clanging harshly on the marble pavement. The noise made 
by their fall was sufficient to excite the populace to a burst 
of triumphant shouting. 

"Barabbas!" 

" Freedom for Barabbas !" 

" Hail Barabbas !" 

Barabbas meanwhile stared at the cast-off fetters with a 
stupefied air as though they had all at once become curious 
and unfamiliar objects. He had worn them day and night for 
eighteen months yet now it seemed he knew them not. He 
lifted his arms and swung them to and fro with a sense of 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 47 

bodily ease and lightness, but where was the buoyancy of 
spirit that had but a moment before elated him ? It was 
gone, and gone quite suddenly, he knew not how. He had 
hoped and longed and prayed for freedom, his hope was ful- 
filled, and now, with fulfilment, hope was dead. A heavy 
despondency overcame him, and he stood dully inert, while 
he heard Caiaphas say, 

" Wilt thou not fasten yon bracelets upon the Nazarene, 
good Pilate ? Who knoweth but that in going to his death 
he may not prove rebellious?" 

Pilate frowned. 

" What now ! Hath he fought with the guard ? Hath he 
moved? Hath he murmured? Hath he spoken aught of 
violence ? He disputeth not judgment, he doth most mutely 
accept the fate ye give him. Therefore why bind that which 
maketh no resistance ? Let Jews be what they will, ye shall 
not make a coward of a Roman!" 

And with this he turned abruptly to Barabbas. 

"Why dost thou wait there, fellow? Get thee hence!" 
and the suppressed irritation he felt quivered in his usually 
calm voice " Impenitent murderer and thief as thou art, the 
laws of thy nation set thee free to slay and steal again at thy 
pleasure !" 

Barabbas winced, and his dark face flushed. The scathing 
words cut him deeply, but he found nothing to say in reply. 
His head drooped somewhat wearily on his chest, he fully 
understood he was at liberty, yet liberty did not now bring 
with it the complete sense of joy he had thought to find in 
its possession. Beyond the barrier the people outside waited 
to receive him with triumphant acclamations, but his limbs 
seemed to be fastened to the spot where he stood, and for the 
life of him he could not help gazing wistfully and remorse- 
fully at the One condemned in his stead. 

" It would have been better," he said within himself, " to 
have died for yonder Man, than live on, free." 

As this thought crossed his mind, it seemed to him that a 
sudden soft light shone round the uplifted head of the " Naza- 
rene," a ring of pale and misty radiance that gradually 
deepened into a warm glow of golden flame. He gazed at 
this phenomenon affrighted, surely others saw the glory as 
well as himself? Judge, priests, soldiers and people, could it 
be possible they were blind to what was so distinctly visible ? 
He tried to speak and tell them, but his tongue clove to th 



48 BAR ABB AS 

roof of his mouth, and he could only stare like one distraught, 
striving to utter words that refused to become audible. Caia- 
phas, impatient at his apparent stupidity and unwillingness to 
move, stepped up to him. 

" Did'st thou not hear the governor's command, thou fool ? 
Get thee hence quickly ! Take heed to thy ways, and see 
thou venture not near the house of Iscariot I" 

This injunction pronounced in an angry whisper, roused 
Barabbas from his amazed contemplation of the Christ to a 
sudden silent access of personal fury. The glory-light van- 
ished from the brows of the prophet of Nazareth, there 
was no more wonder, no more mystic terror ; material life 
and its demands rose paramount in his mind. With a look 
of indignant scorn and rebellion flashed full in the face of 
the great high-priest, he straightened himself proudly to 
his full height, and turning his back on the Hall of 
Judgment strode swiftly towards the barrier dividing him 
from the populace, the Roman soldiers making way for him 
to pass. A moment more, and he had sprung into the midst 
of the crowd where he was received with frenzied yells of 
delight and prolonged cheering. An exultant mob gathered 
round him, shouting his name, men embraced him, women 
caught his grimy hands and kissed them, little children 
danced about him whooping and shrieking with joy, not 
knowing why they did so, but simply infected by the excite- 
ment of their elders, one man in the height of enthusiasm 
tore off a rich upper mantle from his own shoulders and 
flung it around the half-naked, half-starved form of the 
newly-released criminal, shedding tears of emotion the while. 
Not a trace was left of the previous aversion shown towards 
him when first he had been marched into the Tribunal, a 
prisoner under armed escort, the public, more fickle than 
the wind, were full of rejoicing over the fact that their word 
and their will had obtained his release, and, to judge by 
their jubilant cries, the once notorious murderer might have 
been a king returning to throne and country after long exile. 
A large section of the crowd forgot for the moment that 
Other, who was left to His fate and condemned to die, they 
were content to press round their own rescued man with 
joyous greeting and laughter, praying him to partake of food 
and wine with them at the nearest inn, or urging him to 
accompany them in turn to their several homes. Breathless 
and bewildered, and incongruously clad in the silk and gold- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 49 

threaded garment his philanthropic admirer had wound about 
him, Barabbas looked from right to left, wondering how best 
he might elude the enthusiastic attentions which threatened 
to overwhelm his small stock of patience. For he himself 
was not elated with his triumph ; he knew, better than most 
men, the true value of " friends" as this world goes ; and he 
felt more weariness and impatience than anything else as his 
eyes roved anxiously over the surging sea of heads in search 
of one face that he fancied was sure to be there, a face that 
for him was all he realised of heaven. But he failed to dis- 
cover what he sought, and, chilled by his disappointment, he 
scarcely heard the various items of news and gossip some of 
his former acquaintances were pouring into his ears. All at 
once a murmur ran from lip to lip, 

" Look you, they scourge him !" 

Like an ocean wave rolling inshore, the crowd, moved by 
one instinct, turned, swaying impetuously back towards the 
Hall of Judgment. Standing on tip-toe they craned their 
necks over each other's shoulders to see what was going on, 
men lifted tiny children in their arms, some few, princi- 
pally women, uttered smothered exclamations of pity, but 
on the whole a mercilessly pleased air of expectation pervaded 
the throng. Barabbas, carried along by the force of the 
mob, found himself facing the Tribunal once more, and being 
a tall man he was able to command a better view than most 
of those immediately around him. 

"Brutes!" he muttered as he saw " Dogs ! Devils! To 
strike a man defenceless ! coward bravery !" 

And with strained eyes and heavily beating heart he 
watched the scene. The Tribunal seemed now to be well- 
nigh possessed by the Roman guards, for several extra 
soldiers had been summoned to aid in the pitiless deed about 
to be done. In the centre of a ring of bristling spears and 
drawn battle-axes stood the " Nazarene," offering no resist- 
ance to the rude buffetings of the men who violently stripped 
Him of His upper garments, leaving His bare shoulders and 
breast exposed to view. An officer meantime handed the 
scourge to Pilate, a deadly-looking instrument made of sev- 
eral lengths of knotted whip-cord, fringed with small nail- 
like points of sharpened iron. It was part of the procurator's 
formal duty to personally chastise a condemned criminal, 
but the unhappy man upon whom in this dreadful instance 
the allotted task now fell, shuddered in every limb, and, 
c d 6 



50 



BARABBAS 



pushing away the barbarous thong, made a faint mute ges- 
ture of denial. The officer waited, his dull heavy face ex- 
hibiting as much surprise as discipline would allow. The 
soldiers waited, staring inquisitively. And in equable sweet 
ness and silence the Man of Nazareth also waited, the sun- 
light giving a polished luminance to His bared shoulders and 
arms, dazzling in their whiteness, statuesque in their symme- 
try, the while He lifted His deep pensive eyes, and regarded 
His miserable judge with a profound and most tender pity. 
Caiaphas and his father-in-law exchanged vexed glances. 

"Dost thou yet delay justice, Pilate?" questioned the 
high-priest haughtily " Time presses. Do what thy duty 
bids thee, strike !" 



CHAPTER VIII. 

BUT Pilate still hesitated, gazing blankly out into nothing- 
ness. His face was pallid, his lips were set hard, his erect 
figUre, clothed in rich attire, looked curiously stiff and lifeless 
like that of a frozen man. Would that the sick qualm at 
his heart might overcome him altogether, he thought, so that, 
falling in a senseless swoon, he might escape the shame and 
horror of striking that kingly Gentleness, that embodied Pa- 
tience ! But life and consciousness throbbed through him, 
albeit painfully and confusedly ; the people whom he was set 
to govern, demanded of him the full performance of his work. 
Mechanically he at last stretched forth his hand and grasped 
the scourge, then, with a faltering step and downcast eyes 
approached the Condemned. The soldiers, anticipating the 
scourging, had notwithstanding Pilate's objection to bind 
"that which maketh no resistance" tied their passive Cap- 
tive's hands with rope, lest He should attempt to defend 
Himself from the falling blows. On these needless and un- 
merited bonds, Pilate first of all fixed his glance, a great 
wrath and sorrow contending within him. But he was pow- 
erless to alter or soften the conditions of the law, he was 
the wretched tool of destiny, and with a bitter loathing of 
himself and the shameful thing he was compelled to do, he 
turned away his eyes and, . . . lifted the lash. It dropped 
heavily with a stinging hiss on the tender flesh, again and 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 51 

again it rose, . . . again and again it fell, . . . till the bright 
blood sprang from beneath its iron points and splashed in red 
drops on the marble pavement. . . . But no sound passed 
the lips of the Divine Sufferer, not so much as a sigh of 
pain, and no prophetic voice uplifted itself to proclaim the 
truth, " He was wounded for our transgressions, and by His 
stripes are we healed !" 

Meanwhile, a strange and unaccountable silence possessed 
the people watching outside, pressing close against one 
another, they peered with eager curious eyes at the progress 
of the punishment, till at last, when the scourge caught in 
its cruel prongs a strand of the Captive's gold-glistening hair, 
and, tearing it out, cast it, wet with blood, on the ground, a 
girl in the crowd broke out into hysterical sobbing. The 
sound of woman's weeping scared Pilate in his dreadful 
task, he looked up, flushed and fevered, with wild eyes and 
a wilder smile and paused. Zacharias, the usurer, hobbled 
forward excitedly waving his jewelled staff in the air. 

" To it again, and harder, most noble governor !" he yelled 
in his cracked and tremulous voice, " To it again, with better 
will ! Such blows as thine would scarcely hurt a child ! He 
scourged others, let him taste of the thong himself! Ldok 
you, he hath not winced nor cried out, he hath not yet felt 
the lash. To it again in justice, excellent Pilate! in simple 
justice! He hath scourged me, an aged man and honest, 
verily it is right and fitting he should receive the sting in 
his own flesh, else shall he die impenitent. Again, and yet 
again, most worthy governor, but let the stripes be heavier !" 

As he spoke, gesticulating violently, his stick suddenly 
slipped from his shaking hand and dropped on the marble 
floor, and a great pearl, loosened from its setting in the jew- 
elled handle, flew out, rolled away like a bead and disap- 
peared. With a shriek of anguish, the miserable man fell 
on his knees and began to grope along the pavement with his 
yellow claw-like fingers, shedding maudlin tears, while he en- 
treated the impassive soldiers standing by to aid him in look- 
ing for the precious lost gem. A grim smile went the round 
of the band, but not a man moved. Moaning and whimper- 
ing, the wretched usurer crept slowly on all-fours over the 
floor of the Tribunal, keeping his eyes close to the ground, 
and presenting the appearance of some loathly animal rather 
than a man, the while he every now and again paused and 
prodded with his filthy hands into every nook and corner in 



52 BARABBAS 

hope to find the missing jewel. The loss was to him irrep- 
urable, and in his grief and rage he had even forgotten his 
desire of vengeance on the "Nazarene." Pilate, watching 
him as he crawled about weeping childishly, was moved by 
such a sense of pleasure at his discomfiture as to feel almost 
light-hearted for the moment, and, breaking into a loud laugh 
of unnatural hilarity, he flung away the blood-stained scourge 
with the relieved air of one whose disagreeable task was now 
finished. But Caiaphas was by no means satisfied. 

" Thou hast given yon condemned malefactor but the 
mildest scourging, Pilate," he said " Why hast thou cast 
aside the lash so soon?" 

Pilate's eyes flashed fire. 

" Press not my humour too far, thou vengeful priest !" he 
muttered breathlessly"! have done my accursed work. 
See ye to the rest!" 

Caiaphas retreated a step or two, somewhat startled. There 
was something in the expression of Pilate's face that was 
truly terrifying, a dark and ghastly anguish that for the 
moment disturbed even the high-priest's cold and self-satisfied 
dignity. After a brief pause, however, he recovered his 
wonted composure, and by a sign to the centurion in com- 
mand, intimated that the scourging was over and that the 
Prisoner was now abandoned to His fate. And, this culmi- 
nating point having been reached, all the members of the 
Sanhedrim, together with the scribes and elders present, 
saluted the governor ceremoniously and left the Tribunal, 
walking slowly down two by two into the lower hall called 
" Prsetorium." Thither too, the soldiers were preparing to 
lead or drag the doomed Nazarene. Filing away in solemn 
and dignified order, the sacerdotal procession gradually disap- 
peared, and only Pilate lingered, chained to the spot by a sort 
of horrible fascination. Sheltering himself from the public 
view behind a massive marble column, he leaned against that 
cold support in utter weariness, broken in body and mind by 
the fatigue and, to him, inexplicable anguish of the morn- 
ing's trial. In his dazed brain he strove hard to realise 
what it was, what it could be, that made him feel as if the 
most unutterable crime ever committed on earth was about to 
be perpetrated this very day in this very city of Jerusalem. 
He had become a torturing problem to himself, he could 
not understand his own overwhelming emotion. His wife's 
message had greatly disturbed him ; he had thrust the scroll 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 53 

hurriedly in his breast, but now he drew it out and once more 
re-read the strange injunction, 

"Have thou nothing to do with that just man, for I have 
suffered this day many things in a dream because of him" 

Mysterious words ! what could they mean ? What could 
she, Justitia, the proud, fearless and beautiful woman of 
Rome have " suffered" ? In a dream, too, she who scarcely 
ever dreamed, who laughed at auguries and omens, and 
had even been known to say satirical things against the 
gods themselves ! She was totally unimaginative ; and to a 
certain extent her nature was hard and pitiless, or what her 
own people would have termed " heroic." She would look 
on, pleased and placid, at the most hideous gladiatorial con- 
tests and other barbarous spectacles then in vogue in her 
native city, when she was but twelve years of age she had 
watched unmoved the slow torturing of a slave condemned to 
be flayed alive for theft and perjury. Hence, this action of 
hers in protesting against the condemnation of any particular 
criminal, was sufficiently unusual and unlike her to be re- 
markable. "Have thou nothing to do with that just man!" 
What would she say if she could see that same ''just man" 
now ! Pilate, looking fearfully round from his retired coign 
of vantage, turned sick and cold at the horror of the scene 
that was being enacted, but though he would have given 
his life to interfere he knew that he dared not. The people 
had declared their will, and that will must needs be done. 
There was no help and no hope for a Truth unanimously con- 
demned by this world's liars. There never has been, and 
there never shall be ! 

The previous intense silence of the multitude had given 
way to fierce clamour ; the air resounded with discordant bel- 
lowings as though a herd of wild beasts had broken loose to 
ravage the earth. The soldiery, no longer restrained by the 
presence of sacerdotal authority, and moreover incited to out- 
rage by the yells of the mob, were violently pushing their 
Prisoner along with the but-ends of their weapons in a brutal 
endeavour to make Him lose His footing and fall headlong 
down the steps that led into the Praetorium. Their savage 
buffetings were unprovoked assaults, dealt out of a merely 
gratuitous desire to insult the sublime Sufferer, for He Him- 
self gave them no cause of affront, but went with them 
peaceably. His shoulders still bare, were bleeding from the 
scourge, His hands and arms were still tightly bound, yet 
6* 



9 4 BARABBAS 

neither pain nor humiliation had lessened the erect majesty 
of His bearing or the aerial pride of his step, and His beau- 
tiful eyes kept the lustrous, dreamy splendour of a thought 
and a knowledge beyond all human ken. Pressing close about 
Him His ruffianly guards derided Him with mocking ges- 
tures and laughter, shouting obscenities in His ears and sing- 
ing scraps of ribald songs. A scarlet mantle had been left 
by chance on one of the benches in the hall, and this was 
spied out by one of the men who snatched it up in haste and 
flung it across the Captive's wounded shoulders. It trailed 
behind Him in regal flowing folds ; and the fellow who had 
thrown it thus in position, gave a wild shout, am 1 pointing 
with his pike exclaimed derisively, 

" Hail, King of the Jews /" 

Shrieks of applause and bursts of laughter answered this 
ebullition of wit, and Barabbas alone, out of all the callous 
crowd made protest. 

" Shame !" he cried, " Shame on you, Romans ! Shame 
on you, people of Jerusalem 1 Why mock that which is con- 
demned ?" 

But his voice was lost in the uproar around him, or if not 
utterly lost, it fell unheeded on the ears of those who did not 
choose to hear. And anon, a fresh burst of taunting merri- 
ment split the air into harsh echoings, a new phase of bitter 
jesting moved the crowd, the " King" was being crowned ! 
A spearman acting on the initiative given by his fellow, had 
leaped into the outer garden-court, and had there torn from 
the wall three long branches of a climbing rose, thick with 
thorns. Pulling off all the delicate buds, blossoms and leaves, 
he twisted the prickly stems into a coronal and with this ap- 
proached the silent Christ, his companions greeting him with 
hoarse yells of approving laughter. 

" Hail, King of the Jews /" he cried, as he placed it on the 
Divine brows, pressing the spiky circlet fiercely down into the 
tender flesh till the pained blood sprang beneath its pressure 
"Hail, all hail!" 

And he struck the fair and tranquil face with his steel 
gauntlet 

" A sceptre I A sceptre for the King !" shouted a little 
lad, running out from the crowd excitedly, and waving a light 
reed aloft as he came. The soldiers laughed again, and 
snatching the reed, set it upright between the bound wrists 
of their blameless Captive. Then with devilish howlings 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 55 

and wild gestures a group of disorderly ruffians rushed for- 
ward pell-mell and dropped on their knees, turning up their 
grirny grinning faces in pretended worship and mocking ser- 
vility the while they yelled in frantic chorus, 

" Hail ! Nail, King of the. Jews !" 

They might as well have stormed the Sun, or flung insults 
at a Star. Mystically removed above and beyond them all 
was the Man of Sorrows, His lips, close set in that won- 
drous curve of beauty such as sculptors give to the marble 
god of song, opened not for any utterance of word or cry ; 
scarcely indeed did He appear to breathe, so solemn and 
majestic a stillness encompassed Him. That tranquil silence 
irritated the mob, it implied perfect courage, indifference 
to fate, heroic fortitude, and sublime endurance, and thus 
seemed to be a dignified, dumbly declared scorn of the foolish 
fury of the people. 

" A curse on him !" cried a man in the crowd " Hath he 
no tongue ? Hath he no more doctrines to teach before he 
dies ? Make him speak !" 

" Speak, fellow !" roared a soldier, striking him heavily on 
the shoulder with the handle of his spear, " Thou hast bab- 
bled oft of both sin and righteousness, how darest thou 
now hold thy peace ?" 

But neither taunt nor blow could force an answer from the 
immortal " King." His noble features were composed and 
calm, His luminous eyes looked straight ahead as though 
beholding some glory afar off in shining distance, and only 
the slow drops of blood starting from under the sharp points 
of His thorny crown, and staining the bright hair that clus- 
tered on His temples, gave any material evidence of life or 
feeling. 

"He hath a devil!" shouted another man "He is hard- 
ened in impenitence and feels nothing. Away with him! 
Let him be crucified! 1 ' 

While this incessant clamour was going on, Pilate had 
stood apart, watching the scene with the doubtful and con- 
fused sensations of a man in delirium. As in some horrid 
vision, he beheld the stately Figure, draped in the scarlet 
robe and crowned with thorns, being hustled along the Prae- 
torium towards the open court outside which had to be 
reached by yet another descending flight of steps, and, 
yielding to a sudden impulse he moved quickly forward, so 
that he came in the way of the advancing guard. Seeing 



56 BARABBAS 

him appear thus unexpectedly, the centurion in command 
paused. The soldiers too, somewhat taken aback at being 
caught in their brutal horse-play by no less a personage than 
the governor himself, ceased their noisy shouts abruptly and 
rested on their weapons, sullenly silent. Once more, and for 
the last time on earth, Pilate ventured to look straight at the 
Condemned. Bruised, bound and bleeding, the twisted rose- 
thorns setting their reluctant prongs ever more deeply into 
his brows, the "Nazarene" met that questioning, appealing, 
anguished human gaze with a proud yet sweet serenity ; while 
Pilate, staring wildly in terror and wonderment, saw that 
above the crown of thorns there glittered a crown of light, 
light woven in three intertwisted rays of dazzling gold and 
azure, which cast prismatic reflections upward, like meteor- 
flames flashing between earth and heaven. A Crown of Light ! 
... a mystic Circle, widening, ever widening into burning 
rings that seemed endless, . . . how came such glory there ? 
What could it mean ? . . . Like a drowning man desperately 
clutching at a floating spar while sinking in the depths of 
the sea, Pilate clutched vaguely and half blindly at the flow- 
ing scarlet mantle which, as a symbol of the world's mockery 
robed the regal form of the world's Redeemer, and dragged 
at it as though he sought to pull its wearer forward. The 
clamorous touch was obeyed ; the Man of Nazareth sufiered 
Himself to be led by His judge to the summit of the last 
flight of steps leading downwards and outwards from the 
Praetorium. There, He fully faced the assembled multitude 
in all His sorrowful sublimity and tragic splendour, and for a 
moment deep silence ruled the throng. Then, suddenly heart- 
stricken and overwhelmed at the sight of such pure and pite- 
ous majesty, Pilate dropped the edge of the scarlet robe as 
though it had scorched his flesh. 

" ECCE HOMO !" he exclaimed, tossing up his arms as he 
shrieked the words out in his native tongue, careless as to 
whether they were understood or not by the startled Jewish 
crowd" ECCE HOMO !" 

And breaking into a wild fit of delirious laughter and 
weeping, he flung his mantle desperately across his mouth to 
stifle the agonized convulsion, and swerving aside giddily, fell, 
face forward on the ground, insensible. 



A DREAM. OF THE WORLDS TRAGEDY 



CHAPTER IX. 

A LOUD cry went up from the multitude, and in the con- 
sternation and confusion which ensued, the crowd swiftly 
divided itself into various sections. Some rushed to proffer 
assistance in lifting the unconscious governor and carrying him 
to his palace ; others gathered once more around the released 
Barabbas with fresh adulation and words of welcome, but 
by far the larger half of the mob prepared to follow the 
Divine Condemned and see Him die. Fearful and unnatural 
as it seems, it is nevertheless true that in all ages the living 
have found a peculiar and awful satisfaction in watching the 
agonies of the dying. To be alive and to look on while a 
fellow-creature gasps out in torture the last reluctant breath, 
is a position that has always given a mysteriously horrible 
pleasure to the majority. And on this particular day more 
than the customary morbid diversion was expected, for a 
rumour had gone the round of the populace that two notori- 
ous thieves were to be executed at the same time as the 
young " prophet' ' out of Galilee. Such a spectacle was as- 
suredly worth waiting for ! and accordingly they waited, a 
motley-garbed, restless, expectant mass of men and women, 
the perpetual hum of their voices sounding like the noise 
made by thousands of swarming bees, the while they occa- 
sionally varied the monotony of speech by singing, stamping 
and whistling. The Roman soldiers, greatly disconcerted by 
Pilate's sudden and inexplicable illness, and in their own mind 
superstitiously connecting it with some spell they imagined 
to have been secretly wrought by the " Nazarene," were now 
in no mood for trifling. Dragging off the scarlet robe from 
their Prisoner, they hastily flung His own raiment upon Him, 
and with many dark and threatening looks, led him forth, 
closely guarded. 

The morning was intensely hot and bright, in the outer 
court a fountain was in full play, casting up a silvery column 
of foam-dust to the burning blue of the sky. The whole 
band of soldiers halted while their centurion conferred apart 
with the criminal executioner, whose duty it was to provide 
crosses suitable for the legal mode of punishment then in 



58 BARABBAS 

vogue, and who also was bound to assist in nailing those 
condemned in the barbarous position needful to ensure a 
lingering and horrible death. Three crosses were required 
that day, he said, and he was in doubt as to whether any 
that he had were sufficiently strong enough to sustain the 
powerful and splendid figure of the Captive now pointed out 
to him. 

" I' faith I am sorry he is condemned," he muttered with a 
touch of commiseration in his rough accents " He hath a 
noble presence, and of a surety to slay him thus shamefully 
is an error, Petronius. Believe me, so thou wilt find it ! 
llememberest thou not how one of thine own calling, dwell- 
ing in Capernaum, had his servant sick of a palsy, and yonder 
man did heal him without so much as visiting the house 
where he lay ? I tell thee, mischief will come of his death. 
And now I look at thee, thou hast a sober air, thou art not 
in tune with this deed, methinks?" 

Petronius lowered his eyes, and meditatively traced out the 
pattern of the pavement with the point of his drawn weapon. 

" Our governor hath not condemned him" he said in a 
low tone " And therefore Rome is not responsible. Pilate 
would have saved him. but the Jews have willed otherwise." 

" Ay, ay !" grumbled the executioner, himself a native of 
Apulia, " The Jews, the Jews ! Dark and bloody are their 
annals, Jove knoweth ! and they have been known to murder 
their own children to please the savage deity they worship. 
Look you, the fat priests devour the firstlings of a flock in 
their own houses, pretending 'tis their God who hath such 
greedy appetite, and those among them who accumulate 
more gold than is lawful will swear that even high rates of 
usury are the divine blessing on the righteous ! Hypocrites 
all, Petronius ! but yonder Prisoner is not a Jew ?" 

The centurion looked wistfully at the Condemned, now re- 
clothed in His own white garments, but still wearing the 
crown of thorns. A smile irradiated His fair face, His soft 
eyes were watching with tenderness the dainty caperings of a 
butterfly that fluttered for mere joyous caprice just near enough 
to the fountain to catch a drop or two on its azure wings, and 
then danced off again high up into the sunshine. Eiren so 
absorbed and gentle might have been His aspect when He 
said, " Behold the lilies of the field! They toil not, neither 
do they spin, and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all 
his glory was not arrayed like one of these /" 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 59 

"He is not, he cannot be a Jew?" repeated the execu- 
tioner questioningly. 

" Yea verily he is a Jew," replied Petronius at last with a 
slight sigh " Or so it is reported. He is of that vile Naza- 
reth ; the son of Joseph the carpenter there, and Mary hia 
mother is, or was, here, a while ago with the women." 

The executioner shook his head obstinately. 

" Thou wilt never make me believe it !" he said " He 
hath the air of an alien to this land. Look you, there is no 
face like his in the crowd, he is neither Greek nor Roman 
nor Egyptian, but though I cannot fix his race I would 
swear his father was never a Jew ! And as for the cross, ye 
will all have to wait while I go and test which is the strongest 
and least worn, for, on my life, it must lift up a Hercules 1 
Seest thou not what height and muscle ? what plenitude of 
vigour ? By Jupiter ! an' I were he I would make short work 
of the guard !" 

Chuckling hoarsely at what he considered an excellent jest, 
he disappeared on his gruesome errand, taking three or four 
of the soldiers with him. The rest of the troop remained 
surrounding the " Nazarene," while the crowd of spectators 
increased every moment, extending itself far into the street 
beyond. All the people were growing more and more excited 
and impatient, some of them were conscious of a certain 
vague disappointment and irritation. There was no amuse- 
ment in seeing a Man condemned to death if He refused to be 
interested in His own fate, and stood waiting as resignedly and 
patiently as this " prophet of Nazareth" who looked more 
happy than pained. Several minutes elapsed, and the cross 
had not yet been brought. The enforced delay seemed likely 
to be prolonged, and several thirsty souls edged themselves out 
of the crush to get refreshment while they had time and 
opportunity. Among these was Barabbas. Some former old 
acquaintances of his had taken possession of him, and now 
insisted upon his accompanying them, somewhat against his 
will, into an inn close by, where they drank his health with 
boisterous acclamations. Barabbas ate and drank with them, 
and the natural avidity of an almost starving man enabled 
him to assume the air of a boon companionship he was far 
from feeling, but when his appetite was moderately appeased, 
he pushed away the remaining morsels and sat silent and ab- 
stracted in the midst of the loud laughter and jesting around 
him. 



60 B ARABS AS 

4 ' What ails thee, man?" cried one of his entertainers 
presently u Thou art duller than a dying dog ! Where is 
thy once reckless merriment ?" 

" Gone !" answered Barabbas harshly, his black eyes grow- 
ing more sombre and serious as he spoke, " In the old days I 
was merry, and I knew not why, now I am sad, and know 
not the cause of my sadness. I have suffered long, I am 
weary ! and, . . . and, . . . methinks it is a crime to slay 
yon Nazarene 1" 

His words were met with laughter. 

" By my soul, Barabbas," exclaimed one man, clanking his 
pewter goblet on the table as a sign that he desired it refilled. 

" Thou hast come out of prison with the sentiments of a 
woman ! Thou, the wolf, hast crawled forth a lamb ! Ha ha 
ha ha ! Who would have thought it ? Thou that didst so 
neatly slip thy knife into the mealy maw of Gabrias, thou, of 
all men whimperest for another death which concerns thee not, 
and is, by all the laws, deserved." 

"'Tis not deserved!" muttered Barabbas "The Man is 
innocent !" 

He paused, and rose from his seat involuntarily. His com- 
panions stopped drinking and stared at him. 

"I tell ye all," he continued firmly " there is no sin in 
that young Prophet. He hath done many good things by 
your own report, and, looking at him a while since I 
saw" 

He broke off, there was a strange terror in his eyes and 
he shuddered. 

" What?" cried his friends in chorus " Surely thou hast a 
devil, thou also ! What sawest thou ?" 

" Nothing !" and Barabbas turned upon them with a chill 
smile " Nothing that ye would have seen or cared to see !" 

They all regarded him in open-eyed wonderment. Was this 
indeed Barabbas ? this meditative, wistful, thinking man ? 
Was this the lawless, wild associate of the roystering band of 
rebels who, with a little surface knowledge and bombastic 
prating in the open streets had actually succeeded, not so very 
long ago, in disturbing the peace of the city of Jerusalem? 
And while they remained silent, dumbfoundered and perplexed, 
a calm voice, melodious yet ironical, suddenly addressed them 

" Pardon me, excellent sirs, for breaking in upon cheerful 
converse, but I seek to pay homage where homage is due, 
and I would fain give humble greeting, I also, to him who is 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 61 

elected of the people. Great are the children of Israel, be- 
loved in all ages of the one true God who naturally hath no 
sort of interest in the fates of other nations ! great is their 
verdict on every question , and for ever unerring their decision I 
Great must he be who fortunately wins their favour, there- 
fore, great is Barabbas, and to him I proffer salutation !" 

No language could adequately describe the various inflections 
of tone in which this little speech was given. Every note in 
the gamut of delicate satire seemed sounded, and instinctively 
all present turned to look at the speaker. And as they looked, 
many shrank back in evident apprehension, Barabbas how- 
ever, being unacquainted with the new-comer, regarded him 
indifferently as he would any other stranger, though not with- 
out a certain touch of curiosity. He saw before him an olive- 
complexioned man of rather small stature, slight in build, yet 
apparently wiry and vigorous, with a somewhat long oval face, 
straight black brows, and eyes so glittering and strangely- 
coloured that they might have been iridescent jewels set in 
his head rather than organs of vision. They were dark eyes 
apparently, but there was a curious dull gold tint in the iris 
like clouded amber, that made them look almost light at times 
and gave them a singularly unearthly lustre and expression. 
Their owner was clad in a foreign garb of soft, yellowish 
material girded about him with a broad band of flexible gold, 
the upper part of his loose mantle formed a kind of hood 
or cowl which was partially pulled over his thick black hair, 
and fastened at his throat with a clasp of opals. He seemed 
discreetly amused at the disquieting effect his appearance had 
on most of the men assembled at the inn, but he advanced 
nevertheless and bowed profoundly to Barabbas, who gave him 
no other response than a stare. 

" Excellent Barabbas !" he continued in the same curiously 
cold yet perfectly sweet accents, " Deny me not I pray thee, 
the satisfaction of thy friendship ! I am but a wanderer and 
an alien in these provinces of Judaea so specially favoured by 
a discriminating Jehovah, a veritable barbarian in my ways, 
knowing little, though studying much, but in matters pertain- 
ing to thy welfare, thou shalt perchance find me useful, whether 
thy quest be of war or love !" 

Barabbas started, one of his friends pulled him aside, whis- 
pering, 

" 'Tis Melchior. Best humour him ! He hath an evil nama 
and holdeth sovereignty over devils !" 



62 BARABBAS 

" I know him not" said Barabbas aloud, disdaining the 
warniug nods and winks of the various members of the com- 
pany present, "And therefore his greeting profiteth me 
nothing." 

The stranger smiled. 

" I love honesty !" he said suavely, " And thou, Barabbas, 
art honest!" A rough ripple of subdued mirth went the 
round of the men, and Barabbas winced as though the point 
of a lash had stung his flesh. " True it is that thou knowest 
me not ; equally true it is that thou shall know me. Melchior 
is my name as thy ear-whisperer hath stated, but of sovereignty 
over devils I am innocent, inasmuch as I rule no men !" His 
eyes lightened and flashed a topaz brilliancy under the heavy 
blackness of his brows as he continued " What motley garb 
is this?" and he felt between finger and thumb the texture of 
the embroidered mantle which had been flung round Barabbas 
on his release from prison " Thou art all but naked beneath 
this glistering show, a noble emblem of humanity in very 
truth 1 Even thus did I expect to find thee, robed as a king 
without, but within, the merest squalid nudity ! Follow me 
and be cleansed of thy prison foulness, I have my dwelling 
for the present here in this hostelry, and in mine upper cham- 
ber thou can'st prank thyself out in fitting attire to meet the 
eyes of thy beloved, for as thou art, most surely she will laugh 
at thee ! Hath she not laughed at thee before ? Come and be 
garmented for festival !" 

But Barabbas held his ground, though his dark cheek flushed 
at the stranger's familiar allusions to his " beloved." Drawing 
the rich robe he wore more closely about him, he gave a ges- 
ture of haughty refusal. 

" I obey no man's bidding," he said, " I have not been so 
lately set at liberty that I should now become a slave. Think 
me not churlish that I refuse thy proffered service, time passes 
swiftly and behold, in the space of .moments I go hence with 
the multitude, I fain would see the death of the condemned 
Nazarene." 

Melchior's face changed. A dark shadow swept across his 
features, an expression of mingled sorrow and solemnity. 

" Thou shalt most assuredly behold that death !" he said, 
" For will not all the world be there? 'Tis Humanity's great 
Feast of Slaughter 1 the apotheosis of the Jews ! A true 
gala ! a thing to remember ! mark me, a thing to remember 
I tell thee 1 For in ages to come perchance, the story of how 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 63 

this Man of Nazareth was slain to satisfy the blood-thirstiness 
of the God-elected children of Israel, may serve as a wonder 
and terror of time !" He paused, his countenance cleared, 
and he resumed his former ironical tone, " Yea, thou shalt 
see the prophet die, but believe me when I tell thee that she 
whom thou lovest will also be there, and hast thou the look of 
a lover ? clad thus foolishly, and uncouth as an escaped bear ?" 
He laughed lightly. " Yet nevertheless I will not ask thee to 
do my bidding, most self-reliant and excellent Barabbas 1 I do 
but tell thee that in my upper chamber here thou can'st be 
decently garbed if so thou wiliest. And maybe thou shalt hear 
private news of import. Please thy humour ! Follow, not 
me, but thine own inclination 1" 

He nodded carelessly to the staring company, and passing 
through the room with a soft almost cat-like tread, he began 
to ascend a dark and narrow flight of stone stairs leading to 
the second floor of the inn. Startled and bewildered by his 
mysterious words and manner, Barabbas watched the yellow 
glimmer of his garments vanishing upward by degrees till he 
had quite disappeared, then, like a man driven by some irre- 
sistible necessity, he muttered an incoherent excuse to his 
amazed companions, and in a blind, unreasoning, unconquerable 
impulse, rushed after him. 



CHAPTER X. 

" HE is mad !" 

" Melchior, or Barabbas, which ?" 

" Both !" 

These and other similar exclamations broke from most of 
the men assembled in the common room of the inn. Melchior's 
sudden entrance, his conversation with the newly-liberated 
criminal, and finally, his departure followed by the headlong 
exit of Barabbas himself had all taken place within a few 
minutes, and the incident had left an impression of stupefied 
wonderment on those who had witnessed it. 

" Who is this Melchior ? what is his calling ?" demanded 
one man suspiciously " What country is he of? how cometh 
he here in Jerusalem ?" 

There was a silence. No one seemed ready with a reply. 



64 BARABBAS 

The keeper of the inn, a middle-aged Jew 01 servile and pro 
pitiatory manners, edged himself gradually within the circle of 
his customers, and coughing softly to attract attention, said 

" Methinks, good sirs, ye mistake him greatly in giving him 
an evil repute merely for the unexplained frequency of his 
visits to the city. He is assuredly a man of wealth and wis- 
dom, though as to what land he journeyed from, none can 
say truly, though of my own poor opinion, I would deem his 
birthplace in Egypt. Concerning his business here he hath 
none save the following of his own pleasure, he comes and 
goes, and hath ever left some poor man the richer for his 
sojourn." 

" Like enough thou speakest well of him, Ben Ezra !" 
laughed one of his auditors " Thou knowest the trick of 
lining thy pouch with gold ! 'Twould be but a fool's error to 
wag thy tongue against this alien whom thou shelterest while 
thou dost charge him double fees for food and lodgement ! 
Go to! Thou can'st not judge of him fairly, good ready 
money doth quickly purchase good opinion !" 

Ben Ezra smiled amicably and began to clear away some of 
the emptied pewter flagons. 

" Doubtless ye are all well-skilled in such matters" he re- 
plied indifferently " No host maligns a paying customer. 
Nevertheless, the worthy Melchior comporteth himself with 
such excellent good discretion that I see no cause wherein ye 
should take fear of him, he hath done no man harm." 

" Not that thou knowest of, belike" said a surly fellow, 
rising from his seat, and preparing to depart " But they that 
are reported harmless, often by spells and incantations, inflict 
most deadly injuries. Witness yon crazed and sinful Prophet 
of Nazareth ! hath he not the face of an angel ? and yet he 
hath cursed the Holy Temple, and sworn that not one stone 
shall remain upon another to show what it hath been 1 Lo, 
for such evil boasting his death shall scarce atone ! And did 
not his mere glance this morning send Pilate almost mad, and 
plunge him in a deadly swoon ?" 

" Ay, ay ! Thou sayest truly !" 

And, reminded of the impending triple execution about to 
take place, the whole company rose up to leave the inn, and 
began to pay their various reckonings with the landlord. 
While they were thus engaged, a great roar went up from the 
waiting multitude outside, a hoarse discordant sound of sav- 
agery and menace. Glancing comprehensively at one another 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 65 

the party of wine-drinkers hastily settled their accounts and 
made a general rush from the inn, out into the street, where, 
though they knew it not, the most strangely imposing and 
wondrous spectacle that was ever seen or would ever be seen 
in the world awaited them, the spectacle of a God led forth 
to die ! 

The crowd had increased so enormously that the road was 
completely blocked. Tradesmen with hand- carts and pedlars 
leading pack-mules could not pass, and had to turn back and 
find their way through the dark and tortuous by-streets of the 
city to their various destinations. Children lost themselves in 
the crush, and went about crying, in search of their parents, 
a party of travellers newly arrived from Damascus by the 
caravan route, got wedged with their worn-out horses and 
mules in the thick of the mob and could not move an inch. 
As far as the eye could see, the vari-coloured throng heaved 
restlessly to and fro under the blaze of the brilliant sun, and 
moving slowly and majestically in the midst of all, came the 
thorn-crowned " Nazarene." His hands and arms had been 
newly and more strongly bound, and were now tied behind 
Him so that He could not touch anything, or attempt by so 
much as a gesture to awaken the sympathies of the people. 
Soldiers encircled Him with a ring of glittering spears, and 
following Him closely came four men, of whom one was the 
executioner, labouring under the cumbrous weight of a huge 
Cross some ten feet in height, the lower end of which scraped 
gratingly along in the dust, the thick beam being too heavy to 
lift up completely. As they caught sight of the cruel instru- 
ment of death, the populace set up an ecstatic yell of ferocious 
applause and satisfaction, and turned their faces all with one 
accord towards the place of execution, which they understood 
to be a small hill outside the town, sometimes called Golgotha, 
and sometimes Calvary. At the moment when the huge 
human mass thus began to move in one pre-determined direc- 
tion, two additional spectators joined the swarming rabble, 
they were Barabbas and Melchior. Barabbas, clad in tunic, 
vest and mantle of a dense blackish purple, bordered with 
gold, his rough beard combed and trimmed, and a loose hood 
of white linen pulled over the thick mass of his wild black hair, 
looked a very different personage to the half-naked, reckless 
ruffian who had been set free of the criminal dungeons that 
very morning. He kept close beside his mysterious new ac- 
quaintance, watching him anxiously from time to time a* 
6* 



66 BARABBAS 

though afraid to lose sight of him. His countenance was 
grave and composed and not without a certain harsh beauty of 
expression, and he walked with an informal grace and ease 
that was almost dignity. Now and then his eyes wandered over 
the crowd in front of him to the white figure of the condemned 
"King of the Jews," whose shining head, circled with the 
prickly coronal, rose visibly like a featured Star above all the 
rest of the surging thousands. 

" 'Tis a crime to slay the innocent," he muttered. " Con- 
done it as they will, it is a crime." 

Melchior gave him a keen critical glance. 

" Nothing is a crime if the people swear by it" he said 
" And to slay the innocent hath ever been man's delight. 
Doth he not trap the singing-birds and draw his knife across 
the throat of the fawn ? Doth he not tear up the life of a 
blameless tree and choke the breath of flowers in the grasp of 
his hand? What would'st thou, thou meditative black-browed 
son of Judaea ? Physically or morally, the innocent are always 
slain in this world. No one believes in a pure body still less 
do they believe in a pure soul. Pure soul and pure body are 
there in yonder thorn- crowned Monarch of many lands, and 
lo you how we all troop forth to see him die !" 

Barabbas was silent, troublously revolving in his own mind 
the phrase " Monarch of many lands." 

" What is death ?" pursued Melchior, " Why doth it seem 
so hard a matter? "Tis the end of all men. Yet whosoever 
slays the guilty shall be punished, witness thyself, Barabbas, 
who did'st rid the world of a lying knave. Clad in the skin 
of hypocrisy was the eminent Gabrias, and thou did'st send him 
into outer darkness with one thrust of thy blade ! That was 
not wisely done, thou fierce-blooded rascal ! for he was an evil 
man, protected by the law, whereas a good and just Man walk- 
eth yonder to His death, condemned by the Jews, and the 
Jews are not punished yet !" 

As he finished speaking there was a loud crashing noise and 
a shout, and the march of the multitude suddenly stopped. 
The great Cross had slipped from the grasp of the men sup- 
porting it, and its huge weight falling heavily sideways had 
well-nigh crushed one of the crowd who had ventured too near 
it. It was a matter of some difficulty to get it up from the 
ground again, and when the bearers had at last succeeded in 
partially raising it, they paused to take breath, and looked 
about them for assistance. At that moment a huge, broad- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 67 

shouldered, black -haired, tawny-skinned fellow was seen to be 
elbowing his way along in a contrary direction to that in which 
the mob were pressing, and as he came, many of the people 
shouted noisy and derisive greetings. His great height made 
him conspicuous, for he towered above all the heads of the 
throng except that of the " Nazarene" and the long almond 
shape of his eyes, his dark skin, and manner of dress bespoke 
him of a very different race to the elect of Judaea. As he 
pushed through the press like a giant thrusting aside pig- 
mies, some of the soldiers recognised him, and shouted his 
name. 

" Simon !" 

" Come hither, Simon ! Lend thine aid ! Hast thou Rufus 
and Alexander with thee?" 

" What news from Cyrene ?" 

" Thou art here in good time, Simon ! For once we shall 
find use for thee !" 

Hearing these and sundry other vociferations, the black- 
browed Cyrenian paused and looked scornfully about him. 

"What is this fool's feast of howling?" he demanded in 
an angry tone " Are you emptying Jerusalem of her thieves 
and rascals ? Then shall the city be left desolate ! Whither 
go ye ?" Then, as his fiery eyes roved over the throng and 
he caught sight of the fair face of the doomed Captive 
" What enslaved Prince have ye there ?" 

Wild yells and execrations drowned his voice, and a con- 
siderable portion of the mob closed in and began to hustle 
him roughly. 

" Art thou drunken with new wine that thou dost see a 
prince in a malefactor ? Thieves and rascals dost thou call 
us, thou dog !" 

" Let him bear the Cross of the Nazarene !" shouted one 
of the roughs, " He hath often boasted he hath the strength 
of four men !" 

" Ay, ay ! Let him carry the Cross ! 'Tis fitting toil for 
a Cyrenian jack-ass such as he !" 

And they continued to press round him with much hooting 
and swearing. The huge Simon was about to strike out with 
his fists and fight his way free of them all, when suddenly, 
right across the heads of the multitude, he met the straight, 
luminous, penetrating look of the Christ. Something shot 
through his veins like fire, his strong limbs trembled, a 
strange surprise and fear benumbed his mental faculties, 



68 BARABBAS 

and he mechanically allowed himself to be pushed along to 
the spot where the bearers of the Cross still rested, taking 
breath, and wiping the sweat from their brows." 

" Welcome, Simon !" said one of them with a grin " Thy 
broad back shall for once do us good service ! Where are thy 
sons?" 

" What need ye of them ?" growled Simon roughly, 
" Surely they have been in Jerusalem these many days." 

" Rufus hath been wine-bibbing," piped a lad standing 
by, " And Alexander hath been seen oft at the money- 
changers' !" 

" And thou art a prating infant," retorted Simon " Who 
gave thee leave to note the actions of grown men? In 
Gyrene thou would'st be whipped for opening thy mouth 
before thy betters." 

" Callest thou thyself my betters !" said the boy derisively, 
" Thou mud-skinned rascal ! Take up the Cross and see 
thou stumble not !" 

For one second Simon looked as though he were about to 
strike the lad to the earth, but he was surrounded by the 
Jewish mob and the Roman soldiers, and there was the mag- 
netic impression upon him of two splendid sorrowful Eyes 
that had, in one lightning glance, expressed a silent wish, a 
dumb yet irresistible command ; and therefore he stood mute, 
displaying no resentment. Nor did he make the least attempt 
to resist when, with jeers and laughter, the soldiers lifted the 
great Cross and laid its entire, unsupported weight upon his 
shoulders. 

" How likest thou that, thou giant of the mountain and 
the sea!" screamed an excitable old woman in the crowd, 
shaking her wrinkled fist at him, " Wilt vaunt again of thy 
city set on a hill, and the vigour thou inhalest from thy tufts 
of pine? Shall we not hear thy sinews crack, thou ruffian 
of Gyrene, who doth dare to mock the children of Israel 1" 

But Simon replied not. He had settled the Cross steadily 
in position, and now, clasping its lower beam with both mus- 
cular arms, appeared to carry its massive weight with extraor- 
dinary and even pleasurable ease. The soldiers gathered 
round him in amaze, such herculean vigour was something 
of a miracle, and awakened their reluctant admiration. Pe- 
tronius, the centurion, approached him. 

" Can'st thou in very truth bear the Cross?" he asked, he 
was a mercifully-minded man, and of himself would neither 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY &9 

have incited a mob to cruelty nor soldiers to outrage " 'Tis 
some distance yet to Calvary, wilt venture thus far?" 

Simon lifted his black leonine head, his eyes had grown 
soft and humid, and a faint smile trembled on his bearded lips. 

" I will venture with this burden to the end of the world !" 
he answered, and there was a deep thrill of tenderness in his 
voice that made its roughness musical ; " 'To me 'tis light as a 
reed newly plucked by the river ! Waste no words concerning 
my strength or my body's ableness, lead on with yonder 
crowned Man I follow 1" 

Petronius stared at him in undisguised wonderment, but said 
no more. And once again the multitude began to move, crush- 
ing onward like the troublous waves of a dark sea, all flowing 
in one direction, and illumined only by the golden beacon 
splendour of that Divine Glory in their midst, the god-like 
visage, the stedfast eyes and radiant head of the " King of the 
Jews." And the tramping feet of the hurrying thousands 
awakened from the stones of the road a sullen continuous echo 
of thunder, as with shouts and shrieks and oaths and laughter 
they pressed forward, athirst for blood, forward, and on to 
Calvary ! 



CHAPTER XL 

THE sun now rode high in the heavens, and the scorching 
heat became almost unendurable. The morning's trial had 
begun earlier and lasted longer than in ordinary cases, owing to 
Pilate's indecision, and after the final pronouncement of the 
people's verdict, there had still been delays, so that time had 
worn on imperceptibly till it was past mid-day. The perfect 
blue of the sky was of such a deep and polished luminance 
that it suggested a dome of bright burning metal rather than 
air, from which the vertical light-rays darted, sharp as needles, 
plunging their hot points smartingly into the flesh. Jerusalem 
lay staring up at the brilliant glare, its low white houses look- 
ing almost brittle in the blistering flames of noon, here and 
there tall palms shot up their slender brown stems and tufts of 
dusty green against the glassy dazzle of the clear ether, and, 
hanging over the roofs of some of the best-built dwellings, the 
large loose leaves of the fig-trees lolled lazily, spreading wide 
and displaying on their branches ripe fruit ready to break into 



fO BARABBAS 

crimson pulp at a touch. Full in the hlaze of the sunshine the 
splendid Temple of Solomon on Mount Moriah glistened like 
a huge jewel, its columns and porticoes defined with micro- 
scopical distinctness and clearly visible from every quarter of 
the city, while at certain glimmering points of distance the 
monotonous outlines of buildings and street corners were re- 
lieved by the pink flush of cactus-flowers and the grey-green 
of olive-boughs. Over all the scene there brooded a threaten- 
ing stillness as of pent-up thunder, and this heavy calm of 
the upper air presented itself in singular opposition to the 
tumultuous roaring of the crowd below, whose savage irrita- 
bility and impatience were sensibly increased by the parching 
dry ness of the atmosphere. Pouring through the streets in a 
lever of excitement that rose higher with every onward step, 
the heat and fatigue of their march seemed to swell their fury 
rather than diminish it, and they bellowed like wild beasts as 
they scrambled, pushed and tore along, each man ravenously 
eager to be among the first to arrive at the place of execution. 
And by and by, when the soldiers began to halt at various 
wine-shops on their way to quench the devouring thirst induced 
by the choking dust and the stifling weather, the multitude 
were not slow in following their example. Drink was pur- 
chased and passed about freely in cups and flagons, and its 
effect was soon seen. Disorderly groups of men and women 
began to dance and sing, some pretended to preach, others 
to prophesy, one of the roughs offered a goblet of wine to 
Simon of Gyrene, and because he steadily refused it, dashed it 
violently on the Cross he carried. The red liquid trickled off 
the wood like blood, and the fellow who had cast it there gave 
a tipsy yell of laughter. 

" Lo 'tis baptized !" he cried to the applauding mob, " With 
a better baptism than that of headless John !" 

His dissolute companions roared their appreciation of the 
jest, and the discordant hubbub grew more and more deafen- 
ing. With that curious fickleness common to crowds, every 
one seemed to have forgotten Barabbas, for whose release they 
had so recently and eagerly clamoured. They were evidently 
not aware of his presence among them, probably they did not 
recognise him, clad as he was in sober and well-ordered apparel. 
He was in the thick of the press however, and watched the 
coarse half-drunken antics of those around him with a pained 
and meditative gravity. Occasionally his eyes grew restless 
and wandered over the heaving mass of people in troubled 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 71 

search, as though looking for something lost and incalculably 
precious. Melchior, always beside him, observed this and 
smiled somewhat satirically. 

" She is not there," he said " Thinkest thou she would 
mingle with this vulgar swarm ? Nay, nay ! She will come, 
even as the high- priests will come, by private by-ways, per- 
chance the excellent Caiaphas himself will bring her." 

" Caiaphas !" echoed Barabbas doubtfully" What knoweth 
she of Caiaphas ?" 

" Much !" replied Melchior. " His wife is one of her friends 
elect. Have I not told thee, thou siraple-souled barbarian, to 
remember that thou hast been lost to the world for eighteen 
months? To a woman 'tis an ample leisure wherein to work 
mischief ! Nay, be not wrathful ! 'tis my alien way of speech, 
and I am willing to believe thy maiden a paragon of all the 
virtues till" 

" Till what?" demanded Barabbas suspiciously. 

" Till it is proved otherwise !" said Melchior. " And that 
she is beauteous is beyond all question, and beauty is all that 
the soul of a man desireth. Nevertheless, as I told thee awhile 
agone, 'twas her brother that betrayed the ' Nazarene.' " 

" I marvel at it !" murmured Barabbas " Judas was ever 
of an open candid nature." 

" Thou did'st know him well ?" questioned Melchior with 
one of his keen looks. 

" Not well, but sufficiently" and Barabbas flushed a shamed 
red as he spoke " He was one of my fellow- workers in the 
house of Shadeen, the merchant I told thee of" 

" The Persian dealer in pearls and gold ? Ah !" and Mel- 
chior smiled again, " And, all to please the sister of this so 
candid Judas, thou did'st steal jewels and wert caught in thy 
theft ! Worthy Barabbas ! Methinks that for this Judith of 
thine, thou did'st commit all thy sins!" 

Barabbas lowered his eyes. 

" She craved for gems," he said, in the tone of one prof- 
fering suitable excuse, " And I took a necklet of pure pearls. 
They were suited to her maidenhood, and seemed to me better 
placed round her soft dove's throat than in the musty coffer of 
Shadeen." 

" Truly a notable reason for robbing thy employer ! And 
thy plea for the right to commit murder was equally simple, 
Gabrias the Pharisee slandered the fair one, and thou with a 
knife-thrust did'st silence his evil tongue ! So ! to speak hon- 



72 BARABBAS 

estly 'tis this Judith Iscariot is the cause of all thy sufferings 
and thy imprisonment and yet thou lovest her !" 

" If thou hast seen her" murmured Barabbas with a sigh. 

" I have !" returned Melchior tranquilly " She is willing to 
be seen ! Is she not the unrivalled beauty of the city, and 
wherefore should she be chary of her charms ? They will not 
last for ever ; best flourish them abroad while yet they are fresh 
and fair. Nevertheless they have made of thee both thief and 
murderer." 

Barabbas did not attempt to contradict the truth of this piti- 
less statement. 

" And if all were known" pursued Melchior, " the sedition 
in which thou wert concerned perchance arose from her per- 
suasion ?" 

" No, no !" averred Barabbas quickly " There were many 
reasons. We are under tyranny ; not so much from Home as 
from our own people, who assist to make the laws. The priests 
and the Pharisees rule us, and many are the abuses of au- 
thority. The poor are oppressed, the wronged are never 
righted. Now I have read many a Greek and Roman scroll, 
and have even striven to study somewhat of the wisdom of the 
Egyptians, and I have the gifts of memory and ready speech, 
so that I can, if needful, address a multitude. I fell in with 
some of the disaffected, and gave them my service in their 
cause, I know not how it chanced, but surely there is a 
craving for freedom in the breast of every man ? and we, 
we are not free." 

" Patience ! ye shall have wondrous liberty ere long !" said 
Melchior, a dark look flashing from his eyes " For the time is 
coming when the children of Israel shall rule the land with 
rods of iron ! The chink of coin shall be the voice of their 
authority, and yonder thorn-crowned Spirit will have lived on 
earth in vain for those who love gold more than life. The 
triumph of the Jews is yet to be ! Long have they been the 
captive and the conquered, but they shall make captives in 
their turn, and conquer the mightiest kings. By fraud, by 
falsehood, by cunning, by worldly-wisdom, by usury, by every 
poisoned arrow in Satan's quiver they shall rule ! Even thy 
name, Barabbas, shall serve them as a leading title ; 'tis thou 
shalt be < King of the Jews' as far as this world holds, for 
He who goeth before us is King of a wider nation a nation 
of immortal spirits over whom gold has no power !" 

Barabbas gazed at him in awe, understanding little of what 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 73 

he meant, but chilled by the stern tone of his voice which 
seemed to have within it a jarring note of menace and warn- 
ing. 

" What nation dost thou speak of" he murmured, " What 
wor ld" 

"What world?" repeated Melchior, "No single world, 
but a thousand million worlds! There, far above us" and 
he pointed to the dazzling sky, " is the azure veil which hides 
their courses and muffles their music, but they are existent 
facts, not dreamer's fancies, huge spheres, vast systems 
sweeping onward in their appointed ways, rich with melody, 
brimming with life, rounded with light, and yonder Man of 
despised Nazareth, walking to His death, knows the secrets 
of them all !" 

Stricken with a sudden terror, Barabbas stopped abruptly 
and caught the impassioned speaker by the arm. 

"What sayest thou?" he gasped "Art thou mad? or 
hast thou too, beheld the Vision? For I have thought 
strange and fearful things since I looked upon His face and 
saw Nay, good Melchior, why should this crime be visited 
upon Judsea? Let me harangue the people, perchance it 
is not yet too late for rescue !" 

" Rescue !" echoed Melchior " Rescue a lamb from wolves, 
a fawn from tigers, or more difficult still a Faith from 
priestcraft ! Let be, thou rash son of blinded passion, let be ! 
What is designed must be accomplished." 

He was silent for a little space, and seemed absorbed in 
thought. Barabbas walked beside him, silent too, but full of 
an inexplicable horror and fear. The surging mob howled 
and screamed around them, their ears were for the moment 
deaf to outer things. Presently Melchior looked up and the 
amber gleam in his eyes glittered strangely, as he said 

" And Judas, Judas Iscariot, thou sayest, was of a simple 
nature ?" 

" He seemed so when I knew him" answered Barabbas 
with an effort, for his thoughts were in a tangle of distress 
and perplexity " He was notable for truth and conscientious- 
ness, he was much trusted, and kept the books of Shadeen. 
At times he had wild notions of reform, he resented tyranny, 
and loathed the priests. Yea, so much did he loathe them 
that he never would have entered the synagogue, had it not 
been to please his father, and more specially Judith, his only 
sister whom he loved. So much he once told me. One day 



74 BARABBAS 

he left the city in haste and secrecy, none knew whither h 
went, and after that" 

"After that thou did'st steal Shadeen's pearls for thy 
love and slay thy love's slanderer," finished his companion 
serenely, " and thou wert plunged in prison for thy follies ; 
and narrowly hast thou escaped being crucified this day." 

Barabbas looked up, his black eyes firing with a sudden 
ardour. 

" I would have died willingly to save yon kingly Man !' ' 
he said impulsively. 

Melchior regarded him steadily, and his own eyes softened. 

" Breaker of the law, thief and murderer as thou art con- 
victed of being," he said, " thou hast something noble in thy 
nature after all ! May it count to thy good hereafter ! And 
of Judas I can tell thee somewhat. When he departed 
secretly from Jerusalem, he journeyed to the borders of the 
Sea of Galilee, and there did join himself in company with 
the Prophet of Nazareth and His other disciples. He wan- 
dered with Him throughout the land, I myself saw him 
near Capernaum, and he was ever foremost in service to his 
Master. Now, here in Jerusalem last night, he gave Him 
up to the guard, and lo, the name of ' Judas' from hence- 
forth will stand for ' traitor' to the end of time !" 

Barabbas shuddered, though he could not have told why. 

" Doth Judith know of this ?" he asked. 

A fleeting cold smile hovered on Melchior's lips. 

" Judith knoweth much, but not all. She hath not seen 
her brother since yesterday at sundown." 

" Then, hath he fled the city ?" 

Melchior looked at him strangely for a moment. Then he 
answered 

Yea, he hath fled." 

" And those others who followed the Nazarene," inquired 
Barabbas eagerly " Where are they?" 

" They have fled also" returned Melchior. " What else 
should they do ? Is it not natural and human to forsake the 
fallen?" ' 

" They are cowards all 1" exclaimed Barabbas hotly. 

" Nay !" replied Melchior " They are men !" 

And noting his companion's pained expression he added, 

" Knowest thou not that cowards and men are one and the 
same thing, most excellent Barabbas ? Did'st ever philoso- 
phise ? If not, why did'st thou read Greek and Roman scrolls 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 75 

and puzzle thy brain with the subtle wisdom of Egypt? No 
man was ever persistently heroic, in small matters as well as 
great, and famous deeds are ever done on impulse. Study 
thyself, note thine own height and breadth thou hast so 
much bone and muscle and sinew, 'tis a goodly frame, well 
knit together, and to all intents and purposes thou art Man. 
Nevertheless a glance from a woman's eyes, a smile on a 
woman's mouth, a word of persuasion or suggestion from a 
woman's tongue, can make thee steal and commit murder. 
Wherefore thou, Man, art also Coward. Too proud to rob, too 
merciful to slay, this would be courage, and more than is in 
man. For men are pigmies, they scuttle away in droves 
before a storm or the tremor of an earthquake, they are 
afraid for their lives. And what are their lives ? The lives 
of motes in a sunbeam, of gnats in a mist of miasma, 
nothing more. And they will never be anything more, till 
they learn how to make them valuable. And that lesson will 
never be mastered save by the few." 

Barabbas sighed. 

" Verily thou dost love to repeat the tale of my sins" he 
said " Maybe thou dost think I cannot hear it too often. 
And now thou callest me coward ! yet I may not be angered 
with thee, seeing thou art a stranger, and I, despite the law's 
release, am still no more than a criminal, wherefore, because 
thou seemest wise and of singular powers, I forbear with thy 
reproaches. But 'tis not too late to learn the lesson thou dost 
speak of, and methinks even I may make my recovered life of 
value?" 

" Truly thou mayest" responded Melchior " For if thou 
so dost choose, not all the powers of heaven and earth can 
hinder thee. But 'tis a business none can guide thee in. Life 
is a talisman, dropped freely into thy bosom, but the fitting use 
of the magic gift must be discovered by thyself alone." 

At that moment, the moving crowd came to a sudden abrupt 
halt. Loud cries and exclamations were heard. 

" He will die ere he is crucified !" 

" Lo ! he faints by the way !" 

" If he can walk no more, bind him with ropes and drag him 
to Calvary !" 

" Bid Simon carry him as well as the Cross 1" 

" Support him, ye lazy ruffians !" cried a woman in the 
crowd, " Will ye have Caesar told that the Jews are nothing 
but barbarians ?" 



76 BARABBAS 

The clamour grew louder, and the excited mob rolled back 
upon itself with a force that was dangerous to life and limb. 
People fell and were trampled or bruised, children screamed, 
and for a few moments the confusion was terrific. 

" Now would be the time to attempt a rescue !" muttered 
Barabbas, with some excitement, clenching his fists as though 
in eagerness to begin the fray. 

Melchior laid a restraining hand on his arm. 

" As well try to pluck the sun out of heaven !" he said pas- 
sionately " Control thyself, rash fool ! Thou can'st not rescue 
One for whom death is the divine fulness of life ! Press for- 
ward with me quickly, and we shall discover the cause of this 
new delay, but say no word, and raise not a hand in opposi- 
tion to Destiny. Wait till the end !" 



CHAPTER XII. 

WITH these words, and still holding Barabbas firmly by the 
arm, he plunged into the thickest part of the crowd which ap- 
peared to yield and give mysterious way to his passage, and 
presently reached a place of standing-ioom where it was possi- 
ble to see what had occasioned the halt and uproar. All the 
noise and fury surged round the grand figure of the " Naza- 
rene" who stood erect as ever, but nevertheless seemed even in 
that upright position to have suddenly lost consciousness. His 
face had an unearthly pallor and His eyes were closed, and 
it appeared to the soldiers and people as if Death had laid a 
merciful hand upon Him ere there was time to torture His life. 
In response to sundry calls and shouts for water or some other 
cool beverage to rouse the apparently swooning Captive, a man 
came out of the dark interior of his dwelling with a goblet con- 
taining wine mingled with myrrh and handed it to the centu- 
rion in charge. Petronius, with a strange sinking at the heart 
and something of remorse and pity, advanced and lifted it to 
the lips of the Divine Sufferer, who as the cold rim of the cup 
touched Him, opened His starry eyes and smiled. The infi- 
nite beauty of that smile and its pathetic tenderness, the vast 
pardon and sublime patience it expressed, seemed all at once 
to flash a sudden' mysterious light of comprehension into the 
hearts of the cruel multitude, for, as if struck by a spell, their 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 77 

cries and murmurings ceased, and every head was turned towards 
the great Radiance which shone upon them with such intense 
and undefinable glory. Petronius staggered back chilled with 
a vague horror, he returned the cup of wine and myrrh to 
the man who had offered it, the " Nazarene" had not tasted 
it, He had merely expressed His silent acknowledgment by 
that luminous and exquisite smile. And strangely awful did 
it suddenly seem to the bluff centurion that such an One as 
He should express gratitude to any man, even by a glance, 
though why it appeared unnatural, he, Petronius, could not 
tell. Meanwhile some of the women pressing closer and gazing 
full into the calm fair face of the Condemned, were touched 
into awe and admiration and began to utter exclamations of 
regret and compassion, others, more emotional, and encour- 
aged by at last hearing an unmistakable murmur of sympathy 
ripple wave-like through the throng, broke into loud weeping, 
and beat their breasts with frenzied gesticulations of mourning 
and despair. 

" They will change their minds, these Jews," said one of the 
soldiers sullenly, aside to Petronius " With all these wailings 
and halts by the way, our work will never be done. Best press 
on quickly." 

" Hold thy peace !'' retorted Petronius angrily " Seest thou 
not the Man faints with fatigue and maybe with the pain of 
the scourging ? Let him pause a while." 

But He of whom they spoke had already recovered Himself. 
His lips parted a little, they trembled and were dewy, as 
though some heavenly restorative had just touched them. The 
faint colour flowed back to His face, and He looked dreamily 
about Him, like a strayed Angel who scarcely recognises the 
sphere into which it has wandered. The weeping women 
gathered near Him timidly, some carrying infants in their 
arms, and, undeterred by the frowns of the soldiers, ventured 
to touch His garments. One young matron, a woman of Rome, 
lifted a small fair-haired nursling close up to Him that He 
might look at it, the little one stretched out its dimpled arms 
and tried to clutch first the crown of thorns, and then the 
glittering golden hair. The sweet encouragement and strong 
tenderness of expression with which the Divine Immortal met 
the child's laughing eyes and innocently attempted caresses, 
melted the mother's heart, and she gave way to uncontrollable 
sobbing, clasping her loved and lovely treasure close, and letting 
her tears rain on its nestling head. The other women round 



78 BARABBAS 

her, sympathetically infected by her example, renewed their 
lamentations with such hysterical passion that presently the 
gradual mutterings of impatience and discontent that had for 
some minutes proceeded from the male portion of the crowd, 
swelled into loud remonstrance and indignation. 

" What fools are women !" " Press forward !" " We shall 
have these whimpering souls preventing the law's fulfilment 1" 
"Why delay thus?" 

But these angry outcries were of little avail, and the women 
still wept and clustered about the " Nazarene," till He Himself 
turned His eyes upon them with a look of love and invincible 
command which like a charm suddenly hushed their clamour. 
At the same moment, a low voice, rendered faint with weari- 
ness, dropped on their ears melodiously like a sweet and in- 
finitely sad song. 

" Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for 
yourselves and for your children /" Here a deep sigh inter- 
rupted speech ; then the mellow accents gathered strength and 
solemnity. " For behold the days are coining in the which they 
shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never 
bare, and the breasts which never gave suck. Then shall they 
begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us ! and to the hills, 
Cover us!" 

The rich voice faltered for a moment, and the beautiful 
eyes of the captive " King" filled with a deep meditative pity 
as He added ; " For if they do these things in a green tree, 
what shall be done in the dry ?" 

The listening women looked up at Him in tearful astonish- 
ment, quieted, yet understanding nothing of His words. The 
last sentence seemed to them particularly vague and meaning- 
less, they could not comprehend that He who thus spoke to 
them was thinking of the whole world merely as " a green 
tree" or a planet in its prime, and that He foresaw little but 
sorrow from the wilful disbelief and disobedience of its inhabi- 
tants when it should become old and like the sapless tree, 
"dry" Dry of faith, dry of love, dry of all sweet, pure, 
holy and unselfish emotion, a mere withered husk of a world 
ready to be scattered among the star-dust of the Universe, 
having failed to obey its Maker's will, or to accomplish its 
nobler destiny. Such premonitory signs are given to thinkers 
and philosophers alone, the majority of men have no time 
and less inclination to note or accept them'. There is time to 
eat, time to steal, time to lie, time to murder, time to become 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 79 

a degradation to the very name of Man ; but there is no time 
to pause and consider that after all our petty labours and selfish 
ambitions, this star on which we live belongs, not to us, but to 
God, and that if He but willed it so, it could be blotted out of 
space in a second and never be missed, save perhaps for the 
one singular distinction that the Divine Christ dwelling upon 
it from birth to death, has made it sacred. 

None among the Jewish populace that morning were able to 
imagine the vast wonder and mystery investing the sublime 
Figure which moved amongst them with such tranquil dignity 
and resignation, none could foresee the tremendous results 
which were destined to spring from the mere fact of His exist- 
ence upon earth. All that they saw was a Man of extraordi- 
nary physical beauty, who for bold and open teaching of new 
doctrines pronounced by the priests to be blasphemous, was 
being led to His death. Thrust violently back by the guards, 
the frightened group of women who had wept for His suffer- 
ings, got scattered among the crowd, and, drifting hither and 
thither like blown leaves in a storm, forgot their tears in their 
anxiety to protect their children from the reckless pushing and 
buffeting of the onward swarming rabble. The disorder was 
increased by the terrified starting and plunging of horses and 
mules that got entangled in the crowd during the progress of 
the procession through the narrow and tortuous streets, but 
at last one sharp turn in the road brought them in full view of 
Calvary. The people set up a wild unanimous shout, and 
Simon of Gyrene carrying the Cross looked up startled and 
pained by the discordant roar. For he had been lost in a 
dream. Unconscious of the weight he bore, he had seemed 
to himself to walk on air. He had spoken no word, though 
many around him had mocked him and striven to provoke him 
by insolent jests and jeers, he was afraid to utter a sound 
lest he should disturb and dispel the strange and delicious 
emotion he experienced, emotion which he could not explain, 
but which kept him in a state of bewildered wonderment and 
ecstasy. There was music everywhere about him, high above 
the mutterings and murmurings of the populace, he heard 
mysterious throbs of melody as of harps struck by the air, 
the hard stones of the road were soft as velvet to his sandalled 
feet, the Cross he carried seemed scented with the myrtle and 
the rose, and there was no more weight in it than in a gathered 
palm-leaf plucked as a symbol of victory. He remembered 
now in his youth he had once carried the baby son of a king 



80 BARABBA8 

on his shoulders down one of the Cyrenian hills to the edge 
of the sea, and the child, pleased with the swiftness and ease 
of ita journey, had waved aloft a branch of vine in sign of 
triumph and joy. The burden of the Cross was no heavier 
than that of the laughing child and tossing vine ! But now, 
now the blissful journey must end, the rude cries of the 
savage multitude aroused him from his reverie, the harp-like 
melodies around him rippled away into minor echoes of deep 
sadness, and as his eyes beheld the hill of Calvary, he, for 
the first time since he began his march, felt weary unto death. 
He had never in all his years of life known such happiness as 
while carrying the Cross of Him who was soon to be nailed 
upon it ; but now the time had come when he must lay it 
down, and take up the far more weighty burdens of the world 
and its low material claims. Why not die here, he thought 
vaguely, with the Man whose radiant head gleamed before him 
like the sun in heaven ? Surely it would be well, since here, 
at Calvary, life seemed to have a sweet and fitting end ! He 
was only a barbarian, uninstructed and ignorant of heavenly 
things, he could not analyse what he felt or reason out his 
unfamiliar sensations, but some singular change had been 
wrought in him, since he lifted up the Cross, thus much he 
knew, thus much he realised, the rest was mere wonder and 
worship. 

As the multitude poured itself towards the place of execu- 
tion a party of horsemen dashed through a side-street and 
careered up the hill at full gallop, the hoofs of their spirited 
steeds tearing up and scattering morsels of the sun-baked turf 
like dust in the air as they passed. They were Roman nobles, 
visitors to Jerusalem, who hearing of what was about to take 
place, had come out to see this singular Jewish festival of 
blood. After them followed another group of persons on foot, 
and glittering in raiment of various costly hues, these were 
Caiaphas, Annas, and many of the members of the Sanhedrim, 
accompanied by a select number of the retinue of their vari- 
ous households. Meanwhile Barabbas was being guarded and 
guided forward by the astute Melchior who with wonderful 
dexterity and composure, piloted him through the thickest of 
the crush and brought him to a clear space at the foot of the 
hill. Just as they reached the spot, several richly -attired 
women, some of them veiled, came out of the shady avenues 
of a private garden close by and began the ascent at a slow 
and sauntering pace. They were laughing and talking gaily 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 81 

mong themselves ; one of them, the tallest, walked with a dis- 
tinctive air of haughtiness and a swaying suppleness of move- 
ment, she had a brilliant flame-coloured mantle thrown over 
her head and shoulders. 

" Lo, there !" whispered Melchior, grasping Barabbas firmly 
by the arm to keep him prisoner " Yonder she goes ! Seest 
thou not yon poppy -hued gala garb ? 'Tis the silken sheath 
of the flower whose perfume drives thee mad ! the dove-like 
desirer of stolen pearls ! the purest and fairest virgin in 
Judaea, Judith Iscariot !" 

With a fierce cry and fiercer oath, Barabbas strove to wrench 
himself from his companion's hold. 

" Eelease me !" he gasped " Detain me not thus, or by my 
soul, I will slay thee !" 

His efforts were in vain ; Melchior's hand, though light, was 
firm as iron and never yielded, and Melchior's eyes, flashing 
fire, yet cold as ice in expression, rested on the heated angry 
face of the man beside him, unswervingly and with a chill 
disdain. 

" Thou infatuated fool !" he said slowly " Thou misguided 
barbarian ! Thou wilt slay me ? ' By thy soul' thou wilt ? 
Swear not by thy soul, good ruffian, for thou hast one, strange 
as it doth seem ! 'Tis the only positive thing about thee, 
wherefore take not its name in vain, else it may visit vengeance 
on thee! Judgest thou me as easy to kill as a Pharisee? 
Thou art in serious error ! The steel of thy knife would melt 
in my flesh, thy hands would fall withered and benumbed 
did'st thou presume to lay them violently upon me. Be warned 
in time, and pervert not my friendship, for believe me thou 
wilt need it presently." 

Barabbas looked at him in wild appeal, a frozen weight 
seemed to have fallen on his heart, and a sense of being mas- 
tered and compelled vexed his impatient spirit. But he was 
powerless, he had, on a mere sudden impulse, put himself, he 
knew not why, under the control of this stranger, he had 
only himself to blame if now his own will seemed paralysed 
and impotent. He ceased struggling, and cast a longing glance 
after the flame-coloured mantle that now appeared to be float- 
ing lightly up the hill of Calvary like a stray cactus-petal on 
the air. 

" Thou knowest not," he muttered " thou can'st not know 
how I have hungered for her face" 

"And thou shalt feed on it ere long" rejoined Melchior 



82 BARABBAS 

sarcastically, " And may it quell thy vulgar appetite ! But 
assume at least the appearance of a man, betray not thyself 
before her maidens, they will but scoff at thee. Moreover, 
bethink thee thou art here as witness of a death, a death far 
greater than all love !" 

Barabbas sighed, and his head drooped dejectedly on his 
breast. His strong harsh features were convulsed with passion, 
but the strange force exercised over him by his companion 
was too subtle for resistance. Melchior watched him keenly 
for a moment ere he spoke again, then he said more gently, 
but with earnestness and solemnity 

" Lo, they ascend Calvary ! Seest thou not the Condemned 
and His guards are already half way up the hill ? Come, let 
us follow ; thou shall behold the world agonised and the sun 
fade in heaven ! thou shalt hear the conscious thunder roar 
out wrath at this symbolic slaughter of the Divine in Man ! 
No worse murder was ever wrought, none more truly repre- 
sentative of humanity ! and from henceforth the earth rolls 
on its appointed way in a mist of blood, saved, may-be, but 
stained ! stained and marked with the Cross, for ever !" 



CHAPTER XIII. 

BARABBAS trembled as he heard. Full of apprehensive 
trouble and dreary foreboding, he followed his inscrutable new 
acquaintance. Some strange inward instinct told him that 
there was a terrible truth in Melchior's words, though why 
a stranger and alien to Judaea should know more concerning 
the mystic " Nazarene" than the Jews themselves was a prob- 
lem he could not fathom. Nevertheless he began the brief 
ascent of Calvary with a sinking heart, and a sensation that 
was very like despair. He felt that something tremendous and 
almost incomprehensible was about to be consummated, and 
that on the children of Israel for evermore would rest the 
curse invoked by themselves. Could God Himself alter tho 
deliberately self-chosen fate of a man or a nation ? No ! Even 
the depraved and ill-taught Barabbas was mentally conscious 
of the awful yet divine immutability of Free-will. 

The dry turf crackled beneath the tread as though it wera 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 83 

on fire, for the heat was more than ever overpoweringly intense. 
Time had worn on till it was nearly three o'clock in the after- 
noon, and the broad unshadowed glare of the sun streamed 
pitilessly down upon the hill of execution which now presented 
the appearance of a huge hive covered thickly with thousands 
of swarming, buzzing bees. The crowd had broken up on all 
sides, each section of it striving to attain the best point of view 
from whence to watch the progress of the dire tragedy about to 
be enacted. The fatal eminence sloped upward very gently, 
and on cooler days the climb would have scarcely been percep- 
tible, but at this fierce hour, when all the world seemed staring 
and aflame with wonder, the way appeared difficult and long. 
Melchior and Barabbas however, walking side by side, managed 
to keep up a moderately swift and even pace, despite the vin- 
dictive blaze and dazzle of the sky, and never paused to take 
breath till, as they neared the summit, they came upon a little 
group of women surrounding the unconscious form of one of 
their companions. Barabbas, with a wild idea that his Judith 
might be amongst them, sprang eagerly forward, and this time 
Melchior let him go. But he was quickly disappointed, no 
silken-robed beauty was there, they were all poor, footsore, 
sad-faced, ill-clad creatures, some of whom were silently weep- 
ing, while only one of them seemed, by her singular dignity 
of bearing, to be of a higher rank apart, but she was closely 
veiled so that her features were not visible. Their whole at- 
tention was centred on the woman who had swooned, and she 
appeared, from her exterior condition, to be the poorest of them 
all. Clothed only in a rough garment of coarse grey linen 
bound under her bosom with a hempen girdle, she lay on the 
ground where she had suddenly fallen, like one newly dead, and 
the piteous still loveliness of her was such that Barabbas, 
though his wild soul mirrored another and far more brilliant 
face, could not help but be moved to compassion, as he bent 
forward and saw her thus prone and senseless. The chief glory 
that distinguished her was her hair, it had come unbound, 
and rippled about her in lavish waves of warm yet pale gold, 
her features were softly rounded and delicate like those of a 
child, and the thick lashes that fringed the closed eyes, being 
more darkly tinted than the hair, cast a shadow beneath, sug- 
gestive of pain and the shedding of many tears. 

" What aileth her ?" asked Barabbas gently. 

One or two of the women eyed him doubtfully but offered 
uo reply. Melchior had approached to within a certain dis- 



54 BARABBAS 

tance of the group and there he waited. Barabbas beckoned 
him, but seeing he did not stir, went hastily up to him. 

" Shall we not be of some service here ?" he demanded 
" 'Tis a wondrous fair virgin whom sorrow or pain hath surely 
overcome." 

" Do as it eeemeth unto thee well," responded Melchior 
quietly, looking him full in the face as he spoke ; " neverthe- 
less thou must be advised in this matter. Yon ' wondrous 
fair virgin,' as thou callest her, is but a woman of ill-fame, a 
golden-haired wanton of the city ways called Mary Magdalene." 

Barabbas started as if he had been stung. A dark frown 
gathered on his brows. 

"Mary Magdalene!" he muttered "Of a truth she is a 
sinner ! I have heard sundry evil things of her, yet of my- 
self I would not be merciless, I could not stone a woman, 
. . . but if to-day I see and speak with Judith" 

" Enough 1" interrupted Melchior disdainfully " I under- 
stand thee ! Thou would'st not sully thyself, good thief, with 
even so much as a look from a wanton, Judith being pure as 
heaven and Mary black as hell ! Leave her where she lies, 
thou moralising murderer, thou true type of the men who 
make such women ! leave her to the ministrations of hef own 
sex. She whom thou, assassin, dost scorn, hath been brought 
to penitence and pardoned by Him who dieth presently, yet 
what of that ? 'Tis naught, 'tis naught ! for He must be 
crucified, but thou canst lire ! wondrous world that thus 
pronounceth equity ! Come, let us onward !" 

Barabbas listened, sullenly ashamed. 

" If she be penitent 'tis well" he muttered " but why 
then goest thou not thyself to her ?" 

A sudden gravity clouded the ironical glitter in Melchior's 
eyes. 

" Why ?" he echoed pensively, then after a pause, " Were 
I to tell thee truly why, thou would'st learn more than is yet 
fitting to thy nature. Let it suffice to thee to know that 
among those women there is One, whom I may not venture to 
approach save in worship, for where she treads is holy ground. 
For her sake from henceforth, Woman is made Queen ! nay, 
look not thus strangely ! thou shalt hear more of this anon." 

He resumed his walk sedately, and Barabbas more and moro 
troubled and perplexed, gave a disquieted glance backward 
over his shoulder at the group now left behind. He saw that 
the fainting Magdalene had revived sufficiently to be lifted 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 85 

partially to her feet, and he caught the flash of the daziling 
sunlight on the falling masses of her luxuriant hair. Then 
he turned his eyes away, and bent his looks downward to the 
ground, and a silence fell between him and Melchior. AH at 
once a shriek of agony tore the air into sharp echoes, followed 
by another and yet another. Barabbas stopped, his blood 
freezing at the hideous outcry. Unable to speak, he gazed at 
his companion in affrighted inquiry. 

" 'Tis the first taste of pain such as thou mightest this day 
and at this moment have suffered," said Melchior, answering 
his look " They are nailing down two thieves. Hearest thou 
not the clang of the hammers ? A few paces more and we 
shall see the work." 

They quickened their steps, and in a couple of minutes 
reached the summit of the hill. There they found themselves 
in full view of the terrible scene of execution, a pageant of 
such tremendous import, such sublime horror, that the imagi- 
nation of man can scarcely grasp it, scarcely realise the 
consummate bitterness of the awful and immortal tragedy. 
The multitude had formed into a complete ring, circling un- 
brokenly round the crest of Calvary, while the soldiery had 
divided into two lines, one keeping to the right, the other to 
the left. At a signal from the centurion, Simon of Cyrene 
laid down with tender and lingering reluctance the great Cross 
he had so lightly carried, and as he did so, the Man of Naza- 
reth, moving tranquilly to the spot indicated to Him by His 
guards, took up His position beside the intended instrument 
of His death, and there waited patiently for the accomplish- 
ment of His fate. The executioners were already busily occu- 
pied with part of their dreadful task, for, at the crafty sug- 
gestion of Caiaphas the two thieves who had been brought 
out from the prison that morning were nailed on their re- 
spective crosses first. This was to satisfy the refined cruelty 
of the Jewish priests, who by this means sought to overpower 
the "Nazarene" with terror by forcing Him to witness the 
agonies of those who were destined to suffer in His sacred 
company. But herein the bloodthirsty chiefs of the Sanhe- 
drim were doomed to disappointment. No shadow of fear 
blanched the serene visage of the Divine, not a tremor of 
horror or anxiety quivered through that stately frame of heroic 
stature and perfect mould. He stood erect, as a king of a 
thousand worlds might stand, conscious of power and glory, - 
His tall white-robed figure was fully outlined against the burn- 



86 BARABBAS 

ing sky, and seemed to have gathered from the sun-ray? a 
dazzling luminance of its own, every prickly point in His 
crown of thorns glistened as with drops of dew, His fair 
calm face shone with a beauty not of mortals, and so lightly 
did His sandalled feet seem poised on the hot and arid soil 
beneath Him, that He scarcely appeared to touch the earth 
more than a sunlit cloud may do ere rising again into its na- 
tive ether. The land, the sky, the air, the sun, all seemed to 
be a part of Himself and to share mysteriously in the knowl- 
edge of His presence ; had He spoken one word, one word 
of thunderous command, it would have shaken the Universe. 
But with that inward force known only to God and the angels, 
He held His peace, and His radiant eyes, in their poetic 
wistfulness and wonder, seemed saying silently " I go to lift 
the curtain from this Death, which all My foolish creatures 
fear ! I pass through torturing pain to give weak human 
nature courage ! And I descend into the grave as Man, to 
prove that Man, though seeming dead, shall rise to life 
again !" 

Meanwhile the shrieks and cries that had startled Barabbas 
were growing louder and wilder. They all proceeded from 
one of the doomed thieves, the other was silent. With a 
mingling of morbid curiosity and nervous dread, Barabbas 
went shrinkingly towards the spot where the executioners were 
at work, and gazing at the distorted features of the struggling 
criminal gave an irrepressible cry of amazement. 

" Hanan !" 

Hanan indeed it was, his former fellow-prisoner, with whom 
he had fought through iron bars the previous night, and whom 
he had left yelling after him that very morning. Hearing 
Barabbas speak his name, the wretched man turned his pro- 
truding eyes round with a hideous expression of rage and 
envy. 

" Thou, Barabbas ! Thou, free ? Dog ! Accursed 
devil ! What evil conspiracy hast thou worked in to get thy- 
self released and me condemned ? Through thee I sinned ! 
through thee have I come to this ! Coward ! I spit on thee ! 
Justice ! I will have j ustice ! Thou lying hypocrite ! Did' st 
thou not swear to stand by thy friends ? Let be, ye brutes !" 
and with a yell he tore his arm away from the men who had 
seized it to nail it against the left-hand beam of the cross on 
which he was stretched " Thou, thou Barabbas, art thief as 
well as I thou art worse than I, for thou art murderer I 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 87 

Come thou hither and be tormented in my stead! This 
morning thou didst leave me in my cell starved and athirst, 
and lo, they came and brought me forth to die, while thou 
art here pranked out in soft attire, free free 1 Thou ruffian ! 
And this is Rome's justice for he Jews! Ah!" and he 
screamed furiously, as two or three soldiers beckoned forward 
by the executioners came and by force tied his arms with 
strong rope to the cross-beams of the instrument of death, 
while the great sharp nails were driven remorselessly through 
the centre of his palms, " Take ye Barabbas and crucify 
him !" he yelled, " He murdered Gabrias, he stole the jewels 
of Shadeen, he it is who stirreth up sedition in the city, 
bring out another cross for Barabbas ! let Barabbas die" - 

Blood sprang to his mouth, choking his utterance, his face 
grew dusky purple with agony and suffocation. The soldiers 
laughed. 

"Thou cowardly dog!" said one of them "Die like a 
man, if there be any manhood in a Jew. A Roman would 
scorn to make such outcry. As for Barabbas, he is set free 
by law and pardoned." 

Hanan heard, and his eyes rolled horribly with a delirious 
glare. 

" Pardoned pardoned !" he muttered thickly " May all 
the curses of deepest hell be on thee and thy wanton" - 

But his sentence was left unfinished, for at that moment his 
cross was raised and set upright in the socket prepared for it 
in the ground, and the blistering sun blazed down upon his 
bare head and naked body like an opened furnace-fire. He 
twisted and writhed in vain, in his indescribable torture he 
would have torn his hands from the nails which pierced them, 
had they not been too tightly bound for such an effort. Most 
awful it was to look upon him hanging thus, with the anguished 
blood blackening in his veins and swelling his straining muscles, 
and Barabbas turned away his eyes, sick and shuddering. 
Do they all suffer like that?" he asked of Melchior falter- 



All who are made of clay and clay only, suffer thus" 
responded Melchior, eyeing the tormented criminal with an air 
of scientific coldness, " He has had his chance in this world 
and lost it. None but himself can be blamed for his present 
condition." 

"Wilt thou apply such moralising to the Nazarene?" de- 
manded Barabbas half indignantly. 



88 BARABBAS 

Melchior lifted his eyes for an instant to the sky as though 
he saw some wonder there. 

"Ay! Even to the Nazarene !" he said softly "He also 
hath had His Way, and chosen His condition, and unto Him 
be the glory hereafter ! Time is His slave, and Destiny His 
footstool, and His Cross the safety of Humanity !" 

" Nay, if such be thy thought of Him" murmured Ba- 
rabbas, shaken to his very soul by a trembling awe he could 
not explain, " were it not well to speak with Him ere He dies ? 
to crave a blessing" 

" His blessing is not for me, but all" interrupted Melchior 
with solemnity " And I have spoken with Him, long ago, 
when His life on earth was young. But now, 'tis not a time 
for words, 'tis a time for vigilance and prayer ; watch thou 
therefore with me, and hold thy peace, this is but the be- 
ginning of wonders." 

Just then the executioners finished nailing the second thief 
to his cross. This man made no resistance and scarce an out- 
cry. Once only, as his feet were pierced by the huge nail that 
was roughly hammered through them, he gave vent to an 
irresistible faint shriek of pain, but afterwards, with an 
almost superhuman effort he controlled himself, and only 
moaned a little now and then. His eyes turned constantly 
towards the " Nazarene" and he seemed to derive ease and 
satisfaction from merely looking in that direction. There was 
much renewed excitement and stir among the thronging people 
as they saw the second cross about to be set up, for they judged 
that but little time would now elapse before the crowning act 
of the appalling drama, the crucifixion of Him whom they 
accused of blasphemy because " Pie made Himself the Son of 
God." And in the restless surging to and fro of the mob, 
Barabbas suddenly spied standing somewhat apart, a knot of 
women whose costly raiment, adorned with jewels, bespoke 
them of higher wealth and rank than ordinary, and among 
them one dazzlingly fair face shone forth like a star amid 
flame, for the hair which clustered above it was of a red-gold 
lustre, and the mantle flung about it had the glowing tint of 
fire. One devouring eager look, and Barabbas, forgetting all 
fear, warning, or prophecy, fled like a madman towards that 
flashing danger-signal of a beauty that seemed to burn the 
very air encompassing it, and with wild eyes, out-stretched 
hands and breathless utterance he cried, 

"JUDITH!" 



4 DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 89 



CHAPTER XIV. 

SHE whom he thus called upon turned towards him as he 
came with a haughty air of offence and inquiry, and the 
marvellous loveliness of her as she fully confronted him checked 
his impetuous haste and held him, as it had often done before, 
tongue-tied, bewildered and unmanned. Nothing more beauti- 
ful in the shape of woman could be imagined than she, her 
fairness was of that rare and subtle type which in all ages has 
overwhelmed reason, blinded judgment and played havoc with 
the passions of men. Well did she know her own surpassing 
charm, and thoroughly did she estimate the value of her 
fatal power to lure and rouse and torture all whom she made 
the victims of her almost resistless attraction. She was Judith 
Iscariot, only daughter of one of the strictest and most re- 
spected members of the Pharisaical sect in Jerusalem, and 
by birth and breeding she should have been the most sancti- 
monious and reserved of maidens, but in her case, nature had 
outstepped education. Nature, in a picturesque mood, had 
done wondrous things for her, things that in the ordinary 
opinion of humankind, generally outweigh virtue and the 
cleanness of the soul in the sight of Heaven. To Nature 
therefore the blame was due for having cast the red glow of a 
stormy sunset into the bronze- gold of her hair, for having 
melted the blackness of night and the fire of stars together 
and set this mingled darkness and dazzle floating liquidly in 
her eyes, for having bruised the crimson heart of the pome- 
granate-buds and made her lips the colour of the perfect 
flower, and for having taken the delicate cream and pink of 
early almond blossoms and fixed this soft flushing of the 
Spring's life-blood in the coloring of her radiant face. Small 
cause for wonder was there in the fact that her beauty con- 
quered all who came within its radius ; even her rigid father 
himself grew lax, weak and without authority as far as she 
was concerned, and blinded by the excess of his parental pride 
in her perfections, had gradually become the merest tool in her 
haiids. How then could Barabbas, the criminal Barabbas, 
feel himself other than the most abject of slaves in such a 
dazzling presence! A beaten hound, a chidden child were 
8* 



90 BARABBAS 

firmer of resolution than he when the chill yet lustrous glance 
he loved fell on him like a star-beam flashing from a frosty 
sky and set his strong nerves trembling. 

" Judith !" he exclaimed again, and then stopped, discour- 
aged ; for her large eyes, cold as the inner silence of the sea, 
surveyed him freezingly as though he were some insolently 
obtrusive stranger. 

" Judith !" he faltered appealingly " Surely thou dost 
know me, me, Barabbas !" 

A sudden light of comprehension swept away the proud 
annoyance of her look, her red lips parted a little, showing 
the even small white teeth within, then a glimmer of amuse- 
ment illumined her features, wakening dimples at the curves 
of her mouth and lifting the delicately pencilled corners of 
her eyebrows, then she broke into a soft peal of careless, 
vibrating laughter. 

"Thou, Barabbas?" she said, and laughed once more, 
" Thou ? Nay, 'tis not possible ! Barabbas was of late in 
prison, and of a truth he could not steal from thence such 
purple raiment and solemnly sedate expression as thou wear- 
est! Thou can'st not be Barabbas, for scarce two hours 
agone I saw him standing before Pilate, unclad, and foul as 
wolves and leopards are ! yet verily he seemed a nobler man 
than thou !" 

Again she gave vent to her silvery mocking mirth, and her 
eyes flung him a glittering challenge of disdain and scorn. 
He, however, had recovered partial control of his emotions, 
and met her taunting gaze stedfastly and with something of 
sadness, his dark face had grown very pale, and all the 
warmth and rapture had died out of his voice when he spoke 
again. 

" I am Barabbas" he repeated quietly " And thou, 
Judith, dost know it. Have I not suffered for thy sake ? 
and wilt thou still mock at me?" 

She glanced him up and down with an air of mingled de- 
rision and pity. 

" I do not mock at thee, fool ! thou dreamest ! How 
darest thou say thou hast suffered for my sake ! I will have 
thee scourged for thy presumption ! What has the daughter 
of Iscariot to do with thee, thou malefactor? Thou dost 
forget thy crimes too easily !" 

"Judith!" he muttered, his pale features growing paler, 
and his hands clenching themselves in an involuntary move- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 91 

ment of desperate despair, "Bethink thee of thy words! 
Remember the old days, . . . have pity" 

She cut short his hesitating speech by an offended gesture 
and turning to the women who stood near, exclaimed deri- 
sively, 

" Lo, maidens, 'tis Barabbas ! Remember ye him who 
was ever wont to pass by the well in our palm-tree nook in 
his goings and comings to and from the house of Shadeen ? 
how he would linger with us till sunset, wasting his time in 
idle words and rumours of the town, when of a truth he should 
have been better employed in useful errandry. Tis the same 
knave who knotted for me the silken hammock on the fig-tree 
boughs in my father's garden, and for Aglaie, yonder sim- 
pering Greek girl of mine, he once pulled down a flower that 
blossomed too high for her to reach. 'Twas all the service 
he ever did for us, methinks ! yet he hath become of a most 
excellent pride in prison ! the unexpected freedom given 
him by the people's vote hath puffed him out with singular 
vanities ! Would ye have known him, maidens, clad thus in 
purple, and of so decorous a demeanour? As I live, he 
would have adorned a cross most fittingly! 'twere pity he 
were not nailed beside the Nazarene !" 

The women to whom she spoke laughed carelessly to please 
her, but one or two of them seemed sorry for Barabbas, and 
glanced at him kindly and with a certain pity. He meanwhile 
showed no anger or impatience at the scoffing words of his 
beautiful tormentor, but simply looked her straight in the eyes, 
questioningly and sorrowfully. A deeper flush coloured her 
fair cheeks, she was evidently troubled by the stedfastness 
of his gaze, and, noting this momentary embarrassment of 
hers, he seized his opportunity and made a resolute step to- 
wards her, catching her hand in his own. 

" Is this thy welcome, Judith ?" he said in a passionate 
whisper " Hast thou no thought of what my long long misery 
has been apart from thee ? Deny it as thou wilt, I sinned for 
thy sake and suffered for thy sake ! and 'twas this thought 
and this alone that made my suffering less hard to bear. Mock 
me, reject me, thou can'st not hinder me from loving thee! 
Slay me, if it give thee pleasure, with the jewelled dagger 
hanging at thy girdle, I shall die happy at thy feet, loving 
thee to the last, thou cruel virgin of my soul !" 

His voice in its very whisper thrilled with the strange music 
that love can give to the roughest tones, his black eyes burned 



92 BAR ABB AS 

with ardour, and his lips trembled in their eloquent appeal. 
She heard, and a slow smile smoothed away the disdain in 
her face ; he had grasped her left hand in his and she did not 
withdraw it. But with her right she felt for the dagger he 

rke of, it was the merest toy weapon set in a jewelled 
ath, yet sharp and strong enough to kill. Moved by 
capricious impulse she suddenly drew forth the blade and 
pointed it at his breast. He did not flinch, nor did he for 
a second remove his eyes from the adoriug contemplation of 
her perfect loveliness. For a moment she remained thus, 
the weapon uplifted, the radiant smile playing round her 
mouth like a sunbeam playing round a flower, then, laughing 
outright and joyously, she thrust back the dagger in its sheath. 

" For this time I will let thee live," she said with an im- 
perial air of condescension " The feast of death to-day hath 
suflicient material in the traitorous Nazarene and yonder rascal 
thieves. Only I pray thee loosen my wrist from thy rough 
grasp, else I must hate thee. Lo, thou hast bruised me, fool ! 
so rude a touch deserves no pardon !" 

Her delicate dark brows contracted petulantly. Barabbas 
gazed remorsefully at the red dents his fingers had made on the 
velvet softness of her hand, adorned with a few great jewels 
glistening star-like, but he said no word, his heart was beat- 
ing too painfully and quickly for speech. She, meanwhile, 
examined minutely the offending marks, then suddenly raising 
her eyes with an indescribable witchery of glance and smile she 
said, 

" Gabrias would have kissed it !" 

Had the ground opened beneath his feet, had a lightning- 
bolt sped from heaven, Barabbas could not have been more 
amazed and appalled. Gabrias ! The sleek, sanctimonious 
and false-tongued Pharisee whom he slew and for whose mur- 
der he had been cast into prison ! She, Judith, spoke of 
him thus, and now ! With his brain in a whirl and a violent 
fury beginning to stir in his blood, he stared at her, his face 
livid, his eyes blazing. 

" Gabrias !" he muttered thickly " What sayest thou ? 
Gabrias" 

But ere he could finish his incoherent sentence there came a 
sudden ugly forward rush of the mob, who growing impatient 
of restriction, sought to break the line of the soldiery in order 
to see more clearly the preparations for the death of the " Naza- 
rene" which were now about to commence. There ensued a 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 93 

great noise and calling to order and a motley scene of confusion, 
during which a company of imposingly attired personages ad- 
vanced to the spot where Judith and her women stood and 
took up their position there. Among them was the high-priest 
Caiaphas, whose severely intellectual countenance darkened with 
wrath as he caught sight of Barabbas. 

" What doest thou here, dog ?" he demanded, approaching 
and addressing him in a fierce whisper " Did I not warn thee ? 
Get thee hence ! The law's release hath not made thee clean 
of sin, thou shalt not mingle with the reputable and godly 
in the land. Get thee hence, I say, or I will make thee accursed 
in all men's sight, yea, even as a leper is accursed !" 

His tall form quivered, and he raised his arm with a gesture 
of stern menace. Barabbas, pale to the lips, half breathless 
and giddy with the sickening sensations of doubt and horror 
which Judith had so unexpectedly raised in his soul, met his 
cold eyes unflinchingly. 

" Thou insolent priest !" he said " Threaten thy curses to 
those who fear them, but I, Barabbas, defy thee! Where- 
fore should'st thou, liar and hypocrite, sun thyself in the smile 
of the maiden Iscariot, and I, her friend in olden days, be by 
thy mandate debarred her company ? Verily there is a light 
beginning to dawn on my foolish and long-darkened brain, 
verily I do perceive wherein my trust has been betrayed ! I 
read thy thoughts, thou evil-minded and bloodthirsty Caiaphas ! 
As in a vision vouchsafed in the silence of the night I see the 
measure of thy plotting ! Look to thyself ! for 'tis not Judas 
but thou who hast brought to this death the innocent Nazarene, 
thou and thy tyrannous craft ! Look to thyself, for as God 
liveth there is a vengeance waiting for thee and thine !" 

He spoke at random, hardly conscious of what he said, but 
carried away by a force and fervour not his own, which made 
him tremble. Caiaphas retreated, staring at him in dumb rage 
and amazement, Judith listening, laughed. 

" He hath turned prophet also !" she exclaimed mirthfully 
" Let him be crucified !" 

Her malicious and cruel suggestion fell on unheeding ears, 
for just then there was another rush and outcry from the mob, 
and another futile struggle with the soldiers. Barabbas was 
compelled to fight with the rest of the reckless crowd for a 
footing, and, in the midst of the crush, a strong hand sud- 
denly caught and plucked him as it were out of chaos. Mel- 
hior confronted him, there was a solemn tender look in bia 



94 BARABBAS 

eyes, the ordinary cold composure of his features was softened 
by deep emotion. 

" Thou poor rash sinner !" he said, but with great gentleness 
" Thou hast had the first blow on thy credulous man's heart, 
the first blight on thy erring man's passions ! Stay thou 
now with me, and ache in silence ; let the world and its ways 
sink out of thy sight and memory for a space, and if thy 
soul doth crave for Love, come hither and behold it in all its 
great supernal glory, slain to appease the ravening hate o f 
man !" 

His voice, usually so calm, shook as though tears were 
threatening to overcome it and Barabbas, troubled, oppressed, 
and smarting with his own sense of wrong, yielded to his touch 
passively, moved by his words to a certain awe and self-sur- 
render. Lifting his anguished eyes he looked fixedly at his 
companion, 

" Tell me the truth now if thou knowest it," he said in 
hoarse accents that were almost inaudible " She is false ? 
yet no ! Do not speak ! I could not bear it ! Let me die 
rather than lose my faith !" 

Melchior made no reply, but simply attended to the difficult 
business of pushing and pulling him through the crowd, till 
they managed at last to find an open spot almost immediately 
opposite the crosses of the two thieves who by this time were 
gasping aloud in the agonies of heat and suffocation, their 
strained limbs visibly quivering. The men of death were all 
gathered closely round the tall white figure of the " Nazarene," 
they were stripping Him of His garments. Meanwhile, 
Petronius the centurion stood by, watching the process and 
leaning meditatively on his drawn sword. 

" Pilate is crazed !" said an officer, approaching him with a 
huge parchment scroll " Lo what he hath inscribed to be 
nailed above the cross of the prophet from Galilee I" 

Petronius took the scroll and spreading it out, read it slowly 
and with labour for he had little scholarship. Three times 
over were the same words written, in Greek, in Latin, and in 
Hebrew 

" JESUS OF NAZARETH, 
KINO OP THE JEWS." 

" Where see ye any madness in our governor ?" demanded 
Petronius, " There is naught of such import in the super- 
scription." 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 95 

" Nay, but there is,' persisted the man who had brought 
it " And so it was pointed out, for Caiaphas spake unto Pilate 
thus ' Write not, King of the Jews, but that he said, I am 
King of the Jews !' And Pilate, being but newly recovered 
from his well-nigh deadly swoon, was wroth with Caiaphas, 
and answered him in haste, saying ' What I have written, 1 
have written /' And of a truth they parted ill friends." 

Petronius said no more, but glanced at the inscription 
again, and then, advancing, gave it to one of the executioners. 
This man, grimy and savage-featured, surveyed it with an ad- 
miring leer, and flattening it out, began to nail it at once to the 
top of the great Cross which still lay on the ground where 
Simon of Cyrene had left it, waiting for its Divine occupant. 
With a few deft blows he soon fixed it firmly in position, and 
satisfied with its prominent ppearance, he read it with the 
tardy pains of a child learning its first alphabet. Tracing 
out each letter with his blood-stained finger, he gradually un- 
solved for himself the mystic words that have since resounded 
through the whole civilised world, and muttered them beneath 
his breath with a mingling of dull wonder and scorn, 
"JESUS OF NAZARETH, 
KING OP THE JEWS." 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE scene had now assumed a wonderful and terrible pic- 
turesqueness. The populace, finding that sudden rushes were 
of no avail to break the firm line of the Roman soldiery, re- 
mained wedged together in a sullen heated mass, watching the 
proceedings in morose silence. There were a few detached 
groups standing apart from the actual multitude, evidently by 
permission of the authorities, one being composed of the 
poorly-clad women whom Barabbas had seen and spoken to on 
the way up the hill, and even at the distance he was he could 
see the golden gleam of the Magdalen's hair, though her face 
was buried in her hands. And, for the distraction of his 
peace, he could also see the supple form of Judith Iscariot, 
wrapped in her flame-coloured mantle, and looking like a tall 
poppy-flower blossoming in the sun, the stately Caiaphas stood 



96 BARABBAS 

beside her, with other men of note and position in the city of 
Jerusalem, one or two of the stranger Roman nobles had de- 
scended from their horses, and were eagerly bending towards 
her in courtly salutation. Barabbas gazed at her and grew 
sick at heart, a horrible disillusion and disappointment crushed 
his spirit and filled him with a silent rage of pain, an intoler- 
able agony of despair. All at once the ground rocked beneath 
his feet like a wave of the sea, he staggered and would have 
fallen had not his friend Melchior held him up. 

" What is it?" he muttered, but Melchior replied not. He 
was looking at the soldiers, who had also felt the sudden bil- 
lowy movement of the earth on which they stood, but who, 
trained to a wooden impassiveness, only glanced at one another 
inquiringly for a second and then resumed their stiff attitude 
and immobility of expression. The ground steadied itself as 
swiftly as it had trembled, and the populace, in their intense 
excitement, had evidently failed to note its momentary undu- 
lation. 

Presently a loud roar of ferocious delight went up from the 
mob, the executioners had stripped the Condemned of His 
garments, and, pleased with the texture and softness of their 
material, were now casting lots for their possession. They dis- 
puted loudly and angrily, the chief contention raging over the 
question as to who should have the upper robe or mantle 
which was made of pure white wool, woven smoothly through- 
out from top to hem without seam. Throwing it from hand 
to hand they examined the fleecy fabric with covetous eager- 
ness, making clamorous and conflicting assertions as to its actual 
monetary value, much as the relatives of a dead man squabble 
over the division of his poor earthly property. And in the 
meantime while they argued hotly together and lost patience 
one with the other, the immortal " Nazarene" stood ungar- 
mented, awaiting their cruel pleasure. His grand Figure shone 
white as polished alabaster in the brilliant sun, an inward 
luminance gleamed like fire through the azure branches of His 
veins and the spotless purity of His flesh ; His arms had been 
unbound, and with an air of mingled relief and weariness He 
stretched them forth as one conscious of pleasant freedom, and 
the shadow of their whiteness fell on the dull brown earth like 
a reflection of the Cross on which He was so soon to perish. 
And when he allowed them to drop again, gently and languidly 
at His sides, that shadow seemed yet to stay upon the ground 
and deepen and darken. No clouds were in the sky ; the sun 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 97 

was at full dazzle and splendour, nevertheless that mysterious 
stain widened and spread slowly, as though some sudden moist- 
ure beneath the soil were gradually rising to an overflow. Ba- 
rabbas noticed it, he saw too that Melchior observed the 
same phenomenon, but neither of them spoke. For the in- 
terest and horror of the Divine drama were now culminating 
to their supremest point ; the casting of lots for the garments 
of the Condemned was over, and each man was apparently 
satisfied with his share of the spoil. The chief executioner, 
not without a touch of pity in his rough face, approached the 
" Nazarene," and instead of using force as he had been com- 
pelled to do in the case of the crucified malefactors, bade Him, 
in a low tone, take His place upon the Cross without offering 
useless resistance to the law. The terrible mandate was obeyed 
instantly and unhesitatingly. With perfect calmness and the 
serene ease of one who, being tired, is glad to rest, the Ruler 
of the Worlds laid Himself down within the waiting arms of 
Death. As peacefully as a weary traveller might stretch him- 
self upon a couch of softest luxury, so did the Conqueror of 
Time stretch out His glorious limbs upon the knotty wooden 
beams of torture, with sublime readiness and unconquerable 
patience. Had He spoken at that thrilling moment He might 
have said " Even so, children of My Father, lay your- 
selves down upon the rack of the world's misprisal and con- 
tempt ! If ye would win a force divine, stretch out your limb* 
in readiness to be pierced by the nails that shall be driven into 
them by friends and foes ! Wear ye the crown of thorns till 
the blood starts from your aching brows, be stripped bare to 
the malicious gaze of sensuality and sin ! Let them think 
that they have tortured you, slain you, buried you, hidden 
you out of sight and out of mind ! Then arise, ye children 
of My Father, arise on the wings of the morning, full-filled 
with power ! power living, everlasting, and triumphant ! for 
ye shall see the world at your feet and all heaven opened above 
you ; the circling universe shall ring with the music of your 
names and the story of your faithfulness, and sphere upon 
sphere of Angels shall rejoice with you in glory ! For behold, 
from this day henceforth, I and those whom I call Mine, shall 
alter Death to Life and Life to Immortality." 

But no words such as these were uttered : the Divine lips 

were fast closed and mute as heaven itself. But from the 

watching crowd there went up a faint murmur of irrepressible 

admiration for the tranquil heroism with which the young 

B 9 9 



98 BARABBAS 

" Prophet of Galilee" accepted His fate, as well as for the 
singularly sculptural beauty and resignation of His attitude. 
The executioners approached Him with a certain aw* and 
timorousness. 

" One would think him made of marble," muttered one, 
pausing, hammer in hand. 

" Marble doth not bleed, thou fool 1" said his fellow harshly, 
yet with an angry consciousness that he too felt a tremor of 
fear and repugnance at the work about to be done. 

The other men were silent. 

The select and richly-attired company of those influential 
or wealthy persons who were standing immediately round the 
high-priest Caiaphas, now advanced a little, and Judith Is- 
cariot, radiant as a sun-flash embodied in woman's shape, leaned 
forward eagerly with the pleased smile of a child who is prom- 
ised some rare and mirthful gala show. Her brilliant dark 
eyes rolled indifferently and coldly over the outstretched Form 
upon the Cross, her jewelled vest rose and fell lightly with 
the gradual excited quickening of her breath. She looked, 
but she did not speak, she seemed to gloat silently upon the 
prospect of the blood-shedding and torture soon to ensue. 
And from the opposite side to that on which she stood, there 
suddenly emerged another woman, young and fair as she, 
though worn with weeping, a woman whose wild white face 
was like that of some beautiful sad angel in torment. Throw- 
ing up her hands in a dumb frenzy of protest and appeal, she 
ran unsteadily forward a few steps, then stopped and fell on 
her knees, covering her anguished features in the loosened 
shower of her golden hair with a low shuddering cry. None 
out of the assembled throng went to offer her comfort or assist- 
ance, people peered curiously at her over each other's shoul- 
ders, exchanging a few side-looks of derision and contempt, 
but not a soul approached her save one, one of her own sex, 
who was closely veiled, and who, advancing with a light yet 
queenly tread, knelt down beside her, and passing one arm 
around her, laid her forlorn fair head against her breast and so 
quietly remained. Judith Iscariot, lifting her ringed hand to 
her eyes to shade them from the sun's glare, gazed at that 
kneeling group of two with haughty disgust and scorn. 

" Lo, the sinners with whom this madman of Galilee con- 
sorted!" she exclaimed to Caiaphas "Yonder yellow-haired 
vileness is the Magdalen, she should be stoned from hence 1" 

" Yea verily she should be stoned from any place where thou 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 99 

dost pass, fair Judith !" said Caiaphas deferentially, yet with 
the shadow of a sneer on his thin pale lips " Evil company 
should be far distant from thee, and for this cause did I just 
lately chase the insolent Barabbas from thy presence. But con- 
cerning this woman Magdalen, yonder matron who doth thus 
embrace her, cannot immediately be spoken with or banished 
from this place, for 'tis the Mother of the Galilean. She hath 
come hither to behold him die. Were we to visit her with 
harshness, or deny and deprive her of her privilege to watch 
this death and make fitting lament thereon, she and the women 
she elects as friends, the populace would raise an outcry 
against us, and most justly. For law must ever go hand in 
hand with mercy. Have patience then, good Judith, till the 
end, though of a truth I crave to know why thou hast ven- 
tured hither if thou art offended at the sight of sinners ? In 
such a multitude as this thou can'st not hope to find all vir- 
tuous!" 

Something sarcastic in the tone of his voice called up a sud- 
den red flush on Judith's cheeks, but her eyes grew cold and 
hard as a midnight frost. 

" I, like the mother of the Nazarene, have come to see him 
die !" she said with a cruel smile, " She will watch his torture 
with tears doubtless, but I, with laughter ! His agony will 
be my joy ! For I hate him, I hate him ! He hath cast 
dissension in our house, he hath turned my brother's heart 
from mine, aud made of him a slave to his fanatic doctrine. 
For look you, what happier man was there than Judas, be- 
loved of my father, and dear to me beyond all earthly count- 
ings, till in an evil hour he was ensnared from home by idle 
rumours of the power of this boastful prophet of Galilee ? 
What needed we of any new religion, we who served the God 
of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and who had followed the 
teachings of the law from our youth up till now ? Is it not a 
shame to speak it, a shame to think it, that Judas, well-born 
and comely of countenance, my father's only son and heir, hath 
actually wandered in vagabondage across the land with this 
carpenter's son of Nazareth, dwelling among common fisher- 
folk, visiting the unclean and leprous poor, eating the husks of 
want instead of the bread of plenty, deserting his home, for- 
saking me, his sister, and disobeying his father's command, all 
for the sake of this impostor who hath at last been found guilty 
of blasphemy and condemned to his long-deserved death. 
Judge how I hate the traitor ! Ay, with a hate surpassing any 



100 BARABBAS 

love ! I rose betimes this morning to be the witness of his 
trial, when the mob were inclined to pity, I whispered words 
that roused them anew to wrath, 'twas I who gave the key- 
note ' Crucify him !' did'st thou not mark how readily the 
chorus answered ?" 

Caiaphas looked down a trifle uneasily, then up again. 

" Yea, I did mark it," he said softly " And that I heard 
and knew thy voice is no matter for surprise, seeing that it was 
a strain of music amid much discord. And freely do I sym- 
pathise with thy sorrow concerning Judas, thy brother was 
ever thy dear and favourite companion, and this Galilean mir- 
acle-monger hath brought him naught save ruin. He hath fled 
the city they say. Knowest thou whither ?" 

A vague anxiety shadowed the beautiful face he watched so 
narrowly. 

" Nay, not I," she answered, and her accents trembled 
" Last night he came to me, 'twas after he had led the guards 
to the garden of Gethsemane where they captured the Naza- 
rene, and like a madman, he called down curses upon himself 
and me. He was distraught, I knew him not, he raged and 
swore. I strove to calm him, he thrust me from him, I 
called him by every endearing name, but he was as one deaf to 
affection or to reason ; I bade him think of our dead mother, 
how she loved him, he shrieked at me as though I had 
plunged a dagger in his heart. Our father besought him with 
tears to remember all the claims of family and duty, but still 
he raved and beat his breast, crying aloud ' I have sinned ! I 
have sinned ! The weight of heaven and earth crushes my soul 
. the innocent blood is red upon my hands ! I have sinned ! 
I have sinned !' Then with a sudden violence he flung us from 
him, and rushed furiously from our dwelling out into the night. 
I followed him fast, hoping to stay him ere he could have left 
our garden, but his was a crazed speed, I found him not. 
The moon was shining and the air was still, but he had gone, 
and since then I have not seen him." 

Two tears quivered on her silky lashes and fell among the 
jewels at her breast. A gathering trouble darkened the high- 
priest's countenance. 

u 'Tis strange," he muttered " 'Tis very strange ! He hath 
fulfilled a duty to the laws of his people, and now, when all is 
done, he should rejoice and not lament. Nevertheless, be sure 
his humour is but temporarily distracted, though I recognise 
the actual cause thou hast for sisterly misgiving. Yet take 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 101 

thou comfort in believing all is well, and let thy thirst of 
vengeance now be satisfied, for see, they do begin to nail the 
malefactor down." 

He spoke thus, partly to divert Judith's thoughts from 
anxiety on her brother's account, and partly because just then 
he saw Petronius the centurion give the fatal signal. Petro- 
nius had in truth purposely delayed this act till the last possible 
moment, and now, when he was finally compelled to lift his 
gauntleted hand in sign that the terrible work of torture should 
commence, he caught, for the further inward distress and re- 
morse of his mind, a sudden look from the patient, upturned, 
Divine eyes. Such eyes ! shining like twin stars beneath the 
grand supernal brows round which the rose-thorns pressed their 
piercing circlet, eyes alit with some supreme inscrutable 
secret spell that had the power to shake the spirit of the strong- 
est man. Petronius could not bear those eyes, their lustrous 
purity and courage were too much for his composure, and 
trembling from head to foot with an almost womanish nervous- 
ness he turned abruptly away. The murmuring noise of the 
vast expectant multitude died off gradually like the retreating 
surge of a distant sea, a profound silence reigned, and the 
hot movelessness of the air grew more and more weightily in- 
tensified. The executioners having received their commands, 
and overcoming their momentary hesitation, gathered in a rough 
half-nude group around the Cross whereon lay unresistingly the 
Wonder of the Ages, and knelt to their hideous task, their 
muscular brown arms, grimy with dust and stained already 
with splashes of blood from the crucifying of the two thieves, 
contrasting strangely with the dazzling whiteness of the Figure 
before them. They paused a moment, holding the huge long- 
pointed nails aloft, . . . would this Man of Nazareth struggle ? 
would it be needful to rope His limbs to the wooden beams 
as they had done to the other two condemned? With the 
fierce scrutiny of those accustomed to signs of rebellion in the 
tortured, they studied their passive Captive, . . . not a quiver 
stirred the firmly composed limbs, ... not a shade of anxiety 
or emotion troubled the fair face, . . . while the eyes, rolled 
up to the blinding splendour of the sky, were gravely thought- 
ful and full of peace. No bonds were needed here; the 
Galilean was of marvellously heroic mould, and every hard- 
ened torturer around Him, silently in his heart of hearts recog- 
nised and respected the fact. Without further parley they 
commenced their work, . . . and the startled earth, affrighted, 
9* 



102 BARABBAS 

groaned aloud in cavernous echoes as the cruel hammers heavily 
rose and fell, clanging out the tocsin of a God's death and a 
world's redemption. And at the self-same moment, up to the 
far star-girdled Throne of the Eternal, sped the tender low- 
breathed supplication of the dying Well- Beloved, 

" Father t forgive them, for they know not what they do !" 



CHAPTER XVI. 

A DREADFUL hush of horror reigned. The stirless heat of 
the atmosphere felt as heavy to the senses as an overhanging 
solid mass of burning iron. The forces of Nature seemed 
paralysed, as though some sudden shock had been dealt at the 
core of life, or as though the rolling world had paused, palpi- 
tating for breath in its pacing round the sun. Not a sound 
broke the oppressive stillness save the dull reverberation of the 
hammers at their deadly business, for the vast human multi- 
tude stood dumb, sullenly watching the working of their will, 
yet moved by a vague remorse and an equally vague terror. 
Not one among them would have dared to suggest at this late 
hour any mercy for the Victim ; they, the people, had desired 
this thing, and their desire was being accomplished. All being 
carried out as they wished, they could not well complain, nor 
could they recall their own decision. But there was something 
unnatural and ghastly in the scene, a chill sense of nameless 
desolation began to creep upon the air, and while each man 
and woman present strained both body and sight to see the fine 
fair limbs of the " Galilean" pierced through and fastened to 
the torture-tree, they were all conscious of fear ; fear of what 
or of whom, none could have truly told, nevertheless fear dom- 
inated and daunted the spirits of every one. And it was this 
unconfessed inexplicable alarm that kept them silent, so that 
not even a whispered " Alas I" escaped from any pitying voice 
when the beauteously arched, delicate feet of the Divine Suf- 
ferer were roughly seized, crossed over and held in position by 
one executioner, while another placed the nail in the nerve- 
centres of the tender flesh. A third callous ruffian dealt the 
measured blows which drove in the thick, sharp iron prong 
with a Blow force calculated to double and treble the exquisite 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 103 

agony of lingering martyrdom, and Bwiftly the hurt veins 
rebelled against their wrong in bursting jets of innocent blood. 
The crimson stain welled up and made a piteous rose on the torn 
skin's whiteness, but He who was thus wounded, stirred not at 
all, nor uttered a cry. His human flesh mutely complained of 
human injustice in those reproachful red life-drops ; but the 
indomitable Spirit that dwelt within that flesh made light of 
merely mortal torment, and was already seizing Death in the 
grasp of victory. And the feet that had borne their Owner 
into dreary, forsaken ways where the poor and the outcast 
dwell in sorrow, that had lightly paused among the " lilies of 
the field" while such sweet words were spoken as made these 
simple flowers talismans of grace for ever, that had moved 
softly and tenderly through the fields of corn and gardens of 
olive, and villages and towns alike, carrying consolation to the 
sad, hope to the lost, strength to the weak, now throbbed 
and ached and bled in anguish for man's ingratitude, man's 
forgetfulness, man's abhorrence of the truth and suicidal doubt 
of God. How easy it is to hate ! . . . how difficult to love, 
as Love demands ! . . . Many assembled there on Calvary that 
never-to-be-forgotten day, had listened to the fearless and holy 
teaching of Him whose torment they now coldly watched, when 
in the fields, on the hills or by the reverent sea, He had taught 
them the startling new lesson that " God is a Spirit ; and 
they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in 
Truth" No savage " Jehovah- Jireh," craving for murder and 
thirsting for vengeance was the supreme Creator, but a Father, 
a loving Father, of whom this youthful Prophet with the 
heaven-lit eyes had said " Fear not, little flock ! it is your 
Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom /" He, 
this Man upon the Cross, had on one memorable morning, 
gathered about Hun a crowd of the fallen and sick and poor 
and disconsolate, and with a tender smile as radiant as the 
summer sunshine, had said " Come unto Me, all ye that are 
weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest !" . . . And 
they had come, those heart-broken and agonised of the earth, 
they had knelt and wept at His feet, they had kissed His 
garments and the ground on which He trod, they had placed 
their little children in His arms, and had told Him all their sor- 
rows. And He had laid His hands upon them in blessing, those 
fair white hands of mystic power and healing which dispensed 
naught but good, but which now, palms outward, were fastened 
to the death-rack, ... a symbolic token of the world's reward 



104 BARABBAS 

to all its noblest souls ! . . . The blood oozed slowly and re 
luctantly from those hands, but, as was usual in the dolours of 
crucifixion, gathered itself painfully in the outstretched arms, 
swelling the veins and knotting the muscles, though as yet 
the terrible ordeal had not reached its height, for the Cross had 
still to be lifted. For that tremendous uplifting the whole 
universe waited, for that, the very heavens were at pause and 
the angels stricken dumb ! 

The executioners having finished the first part of their task, 
now beckoned the centurion to step forward and see for him- 
self that the nails in the Victim's body were secure, so that he 
might be able to certify to the authorities that the law had been 
adequately fulfilled. With a sickening heart, Petronius obeyed 
the signal. But his sight was dazzled, his brain reeled, 
there was a choking dryness in his throat, and he could not 
speak a word. Yet this time the Man of Sorrows never looked 
at him, the Divine orbs of light and genius were turned to 
heaven alone, as though absorbing the fiery glory of the sun. 
And, was it fancy, or some delusion of his own sense of 
vision that suddenly gave him the impression of an approach- 
ing darkness in the sky ? as if indeed the sun were losing 
lustre? He rubbed his eyes and gazed dubiously about, 
surely a mysterious shadow as of outspread wings rested on the 
landscape ! Were the people, were the soldiers conscious of 
this ? Apparently not. Their attention was concentrated on 
the work of death, and there was a general eager forward 
movement of the crowd to see the Cross set up. As Petro- 
nius, dazed and bewildered, stepped back, the executioners, six 
in all, men of sinewy and powerful build, bent themselves 
energetically to the completion of their work, ... in vain! 
Their united forces could not raise the world's Eternal Sym- 
bol one inch from the ground. They struggled and dragged at 
it, the sweat pouring from their brows, but its priceless freight 
of Godhead, Majesty and Love resisted all their efforts. 

" I said he was a Hercules," growled the chief man, wring- 
ing the perspiration from his rough beard, " The Cross itself 
is of uncommon size, and he upon it hath the mould of heroes. 
What, Simon ! Simon of Gyrene ! Art thou there ?" 

The crowd moved and murmured and made way, and 
Simon, thus apostrophised, came slowly to the front. 

"What need ye more of me?" he demanded sullenly, 
"Think ye I will aid in murder?" 

" Thou Libyan ass I" retorted the executioner " Who talks 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 1JJ5 

of murder ? This is the law's work, not ours. Lend us thy 
brawny arms a minute's space, thou art made in a giant's 
shape, and should'st have a giant's |force withal. An' thou 
wilt not" he added in a lower tone " we must use greater 
roughness." 

Simon hesitated, then, as if inwardly compelled, advanced 
submissively to the foot of the Cross. His eyes were cast 
down, and he bit his lips to hide their nervous trembling. 

" Lift ye all together the upper beams" he said softly to 
the executioners, hushing his voice like one who speaks in 
rapture or in reverence " I will support the end." 

They stared amazedly, he was voluntarily choosing the 
greater weight which would inevitably be his to bear directly 
the Cross was raised. But they offered no opposition. 
Stronger than any lion he was known to be, let him test his 
strength now, for here was his opportunity ! So they thought 
as they went in the direction he indicated, three men to the 
right and three to the left. The excitement of the people was 
now intense, so passionately absorbed indeed had it become 
that none seemed to be aware of a singular circumstance that 
with each moment grew more pronounced and evident, this 
was the solemn spreading of a semi-darkness which, like 
advancing twilight, began gradually to blot out all the brilliant 
blue of the afternoon skies. It came on stealthily and almost 
imperceptibly, but the crowd saw nothing as yet, . . . noth- 
ing but the huge bronzed figure of Simon stooping to lift the 
Crucified. Tenderly, and with a strange air of humiliation, 
the rough-featured black-browed Cyrenian laid hands upon the 
Cross once more, the Cross he had so lightly borne to Calvary, 
and grasping it firmly, drew it up, up by slow and sure de- 
grees, till the pierced and bleeding feet of the Christ came close 
against his straining breast, . . . inch by inch, with panting 
breath and an ardent force that was more like love than cruelty, 
he lifted it higher and higher from the ground, the executioners 
holding and guiding the transverse beams upward till these were 
beyond their reach, and Simon alone, with wildly beating 
heart and muscles stretched nigh to breaking, supported for one 
lightning instant the world's Redeemer in his arms ! He 
staggered and groaned, the blood rushed to his face and the 
veins in his forehead swelled, . . . but he held his ground for 
that one terrible moment, . . . then, ... a dozen men rushed 
excitedly to his assistance, and with their aid, the great Cross, 
with the greatest Love transfixed upon it, was thrust into the 



106 BARABBAS 

deep socket dug for its reception on the summit of the hill. It 
fell in with a thudding reverberation as though its end had 
struck the very centre of the earth, and trembling to and fro 
for a few seconds like a tree shaken by a storm-wind, was soon 
perfectly still, fixed steadily upright between the two already 
crucified thieves, who though dying fast, were not yet dead. 
Salvation's Symbol stood declared ! and Simon of Gyrene, 
having done all he was needed to do, retreated slowly with 
faltering steps and swimming brain, conscious only of one 
thing, that the blood of the Victim had stained his breast, 
and that the stain seemed to burn his flesh like fire. He folded 
his garment over it to hide it, as though it were a magic talis- 
man which must for safety's sake be well concealed ; it gave 
him pain as much as if he had himself been wounded, . . . 
and yet ... it was a pang that thrilled and warmed his soul ! 
He saw nothing, the earth appeared to eddy round him like 
a wave, but he stumbled on blindly, heedless of whither he 
went and forcing his way through the crowd that gaped at him 
in wonderment, the while he muttered from time to time under 
his breath the words of the inscription above the head of the 
Divine Martyr, 

" JESUS OP NAZARETH, KING OP THE JEWS !" 
And now, the Cross being openly set up, and the slow 
devourings of death having commenced upon the sinless Sacri- 
fice, a long wild shout of savage exultation arose from the 
multitude, a shout that rang in harsh hoarse echoes over the 
hill, through the low-lying gardens beyond, and away as it 
seemed to the summit of Mount Moriah, where over Solomon's 
glistening Temple, a cloud as of dust or smoke, hung like a 
warning of storm and fire. And the barbaric human clamour 
as it mutteringly died- away was suddenly taken up and all 
unexpectedly answered by a grander uproar, a deep, threaten- 
ing boom of far-off thunder. In circling tones and semi-tones 
of wrath it volleyed through the skies, and, startled by the 
sound, the people, roused for the first time from their morbid 
engrossment in the work of cruel torture and blood-shedding, 
looked up and saw that the heavens were growing dark and 
that the sun was nearly covered by an inky black cloud, from 
which its rim peered feebly like a glimmering half-moon. 
Against the background of that obscured sun and sable cloud 
the Cross stood clear, the outstretched Figure on it, looking, in 
that livid murkiness, whiter than a shape of snow, and the 
multitude silenced anew by some strange terror, watched and 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY J07 

listened, chained in their thousands to the one spot by mingled 
fear and fascination. Afraid to move they knew not why, and 
waiting for they knew not what, they gazed all with one accord 
at the huge Cross and its emblazoned Glory suspended between 
them and the pallidly vanishing sun, and murmured to one 
another vaguely between-whiles of storm and rain, there 
would be a heavy shower they said, good for the land and 
cooling to the air. But they spoke at random, their thoughts 
were not with their words, and their minds were ill at ease. 
For the omnipresent spirit of fear, like a chill wind, breathed 
upon their nerves, lifting the very hair of their flesh and caus- 
ing their limbs to tremble. And ever the skies darkened, and 
ever, with scarce a moment's pause, the gathering thunders 
rolled. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

DEEPER and deeper drooped the dull grey gloom, like a 
curtain falling slowly and impenetrably over all things. The 
strange stillness of the multitude, . . . the heavy breathless- 
ness of the air, . . . and the appalling effect of the three 
crosses with the tortured figures on them, standing out against 
the lurid storm-light, were sufficient to inspire a sense of awe 
and dread in the mind of the most hardened and callous be- 
holder. The booming thunder swinging to and fro in the 
clouds resembled the sepulchral sound of an iron-tongued 
funeral bell, half muffled, half clamant, . . . and presently 
the landscape took upon itself a spectral look, as of being a 
dream scene unsubstantially formed of flitting vapour. The 
circling line of the Roman soldiery appeared to lessen to the 
merest thread of gleaming steel, the serried ranks of the 
populace merged into a confused, apparently intangible blur, 
and in the singular flitting and wavering of light and shade, it 
happened that at last only the one central Cross became pre- 
eminently visible. Outlined with impressive distinctness, it 
suddenly seemed to assume gigantic proportions, stretching 
interminably as it were to east and west, up to heaven and 
down to earth, while behind the head of the Divine Crucified, 
a golden pearl of the veiled sun shone like the suggestion of a 
new world bursting into being. One instant this weird glamour 



108 BARABBAS 

lasted, . . . and then a blue blaze of lightning cut up the sky 
into shreds and bars, followed instantaneously by a terrific clap 
of thunder. Men grew pale, . . . women screamed, . . . 
even the soldiers lost their wonted composure and looked at 
each other in doubting and superstitious dread. For they had 
their gods, these rough untutored men, they believed in the 
angers of Jupiter, and if the fierce god's chariot-wheels were 
rattling through the far empyrean thus furiously, surely his 
wrath would soon exceed all bounds 1 And could it be because 
the " Nazarene" was crucified ? Their darkening countenances 
full of apprehension, expressed their thoughts, and the high- 
priest Caiaphas, quick to detect the least hint of a change in 
the popular sentiment, became uneasy. This storm, com- 
mencing at the very moment of the crucifixion, might so im- 
press and terrify the ignorant rabble, that they might imagine 
the death of the Galilean Prophet was being visited on them by 
the powers of heaven, and possibly might insist on having Him 
taken down from the Cross after all. He imparted his politic 
fears to Judith Iscariot in a whisper, she too had grown pale 
at the loud threat of the gathering storm, and was not without 
a nervous sense of alarm, but she was prouder than most of 
her sex, and scorned to outwardly show any misgiving what- 
ever she inwardly felt. And while Caiaphas yet murmured 
discreetly in her ear, a sudden glow as of fire was flung upon 
Calvary, the sable mask of cloud slid from the sun, and 
wide rays of light tinged with a singular redness like that of 
an out-breaking volcano, blazed forth brilliantly over the hill. 
Cheered by the splendour, the people threw off, in part, their 
vague terrors, their faces brightened, and Caiaphas profiting 
by his opportunity, stepped out in full view of the crowd, and 
advanced majestically towards the Cross from which the " King 
of the Jews" looked down upon him. Lifting his hand to 
shade his eyes from the crimson glare which haloed with a 
burning ring the outstretched patient Figure, he exclaimed in 
clear loud accents " Thou that destroy est the temple and 
buildest it in three days, save thyself and come down from 
tlie cross !" 

The multitude heard, and roared applause and laughter. 
Even the grim soldiers smiled for, thought they, if the Man 
of Galilee were a true miracle-worker, He could never have a 
better opportunity for displaying His powers than now. Caia- 
phas smiled proudly, he had struck the right note, and had 
distracted the attention of the mob from their personal alarms 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 109 

of the storm, to renewed interest in the cruelty that was being 
enacted. Still standing before the Cross, he studied with 
placid pitilessness every outline of the perfect Human Shape 
in which Divine Glory was concealed, and watched with the 
scientific interest of a merciless torturer the gradual welling up 
and slow dropping of blood from the wounded hands and feet, 
the pained, patient struggling of the quickened breath, 
the pale parted lips, the wearily-drooping, half-closed eyes. 
Annas, sleek and sly, with an air of hypocritical forbearance 
and compassion, approached also, and looked up at the same 
piteous spectacle. Then, rubbing his hands gently together, 
he said softly, yet distinctly, 

"He saved others, himself he cannot save ! If he be the 
King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross and we 
will believe him .'" 

The dying thief Hanan, now in the last stage of his agony, 
caught these words, and twisting himself fiercely forward 
muttered groans and hideous curses. His neck swelled, his 
tongue protruded, and the frightful effort he made to speak 
distorted his whole repulsive countenance, while his body 
agitated by muscular twitchings, violently shook the cross on 
which he was roped and nailed. 

" Thou blasphemer !" he gasped at last, rolling his fierce 
eyes round and fixing them on the fair thorn-crowned Head 
that with every moment drooped lower and lower, " Well it 
is that thou should'st die, ... yet willingly would I have 
seen Barabbas nailed where thou art ! Nevertheless thou art 
a false and evil prophet, if thou be the Christ, save thyself 
and us /" 

The other crucified malefactor, close upon his end, and pant- 
ing out his life in broken breaths of anguish, suddenly writhed 
himself upward against his cross, and forced himself to lift 
his heavy head. 

" Hanan !" he muttered hoarsely, " Dost thou not fear God ? 
. . . Seeing thou art in the same condemnation ?" He broke 
off, struggling against the suffocation in his throat, then con- 
tinued to murmur incoherently, " And we indeed justly, . . . 
for we receive the due reward of our deeds, . . . but this Man 
hath done nothing amiss" 

Again he stopped. All at once a great wonder, rapture and 
expectation flashed into his livid face and lightened his glazing 
eyes. He uttered a loud cry, turning himself with all his 
strength towards the silent Christ. 
10 



HO B ARABS AS 

" Lord . . . Lord" ... he stammered feebly. " Remem- 
ber me . . . when . . . thou earnest . . . into . . . thy King- 
dom!" 

Slowly, with aching difficulty, but with unconquerably 
tender patience, the Divine head was gently raised, the lus- 
trous suffering eyes bent their everlasting love upon him, and 
a low voice, hushed and sad, yet ever musical, responded, 

" Verily I say unto thee, This day shalt thou be with Me 
in Paradise !" 

And as the wondrous promise reached his ears, the tortured 
and repenting sinner smiled, the anguish passed away from 
his features leaving them smooth and calm, and with one 
faint groan his head fell heavily forward on his chest, . . . 
his limbs ceased trembling, ... he was dead. Hanan still 
lingered in the throes of reluctant dissolution, his awful 
struggle having become a mere savage revolt of material nature 
from which the strongest turned away their eyes, shuddering. 

Another reverberating crash of thunder bellowed through 
the sky ; this time the earth rocked in answer, and the people 
were seized anew with dread. Caiaphas, self-possessed and full 
of dignity, still held his ground, ready to face and quell any 
fresh superstitious alarms, inviting by his very attitude as it 
were, all the world to bear witness to the justice of the law's 
condemnation. Pointing upward to the Cross, he cried 
aloud, 

" He trusted in God ! Let Him deliver him now if He 
will have him ; for he said, I am the Son of God /' ' 

But the multitude were not so ready to respond as before, 
they were troubled by forebodings and fears which they could 
not explain, and their eyes were not so much fixed on the 
crucified "Nazarene" as on the sun behind Him, the sun 
which now looked like a strange new planet coloured a blackish 
red. They were also noting the conduct of a small brown bird, 
which had settled on the Cross, and was now desperately pluck- 
ing with its tiny beak at the crown of thorns that circled the 
bleeding brows of the " King." A soldier threw a stone at 
it, it flew away, but swiftly returned to resume its singular, 
self-appointed task. Again and again it was driven off, and 
again and again it came back fearlessly, fluttering round the 
shining head of the Christ, and striving, as it seemed, to tear off 
the thorny coronal. Its feeble but heroic efforts were rewarded 
by one upward glance from the loving eyes of the Beloved, 
and then the innocent feathered creature, mournfully chirping, 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY HI 

flew away for the last time, its downy breast torn and stained 
with blood, but otherwise uninjured. 

This trifling incident gave a singular emotion of pleasure to 
the crowd. They found something touching and dramatic in 
it, and the bird's wound of love elicited far more sympathy 
than the speechless and supernal sorrows of the Man Divine. 
Compassion and interest for birds and animals and creeping 
things of the wood and field often distinguish the otherwise 
selfish and cold-hearted ; and many a man has been known to 
love a dog when in human relationships he would willingly 
slander his friend or slay his brother. 

Again a shaft of lightning flashed through the heavens, 
followed by a lion-like hungry roar of thunder, and many of 
the people began to move to and fro troublously, and turn their 
eyes from the hill city-wards in alarm and anxiety. All at 
once in the full red glare of the volcanic sun Judith Iscariot 
ran forward excitedly, her flame-coloured mantle falling away 
from her tawny gold tresses, her lips parted in a smile, her 
glowing exquisite face upturned, and the jewels on her attire 
gleaming with lurid sparks like the changing hues of a serpent's 
throat. Lifting up her round white arm, ablaze with gems 
from wrist to shoulder, she pointed derisively at the dying 
Christ and laughed, then making an arch of her two hands 
above her mouth so that her voice might carry to its farthest, 
she cried aloud to Him mockingly, 

" If thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross!" 

The words rang out with vibrating distinctness, clear as a 
bell, and Barabbas, though he was at some distance off, heard 
them, and saw that it was Judith who spoke. Moved to an 
unspeakable horror and dismay, he rushed towards her, scarcely 
knowing what he did, but full of the idea that he must stop 
her cruel, unwomanly gibing, must drag her away, by sheer 
force if necessary, from the position she had taken up below 
the Cross. Her beautiful figure standing there looked strange 
and devilish, her red mantle caught blood-like gleams from 
the red sun, above her the tortured limbs of the God-Man 
shone marble white and almost luminous, while His dreamful 
face, drooped downward, now had upon it a stern shadow like 
the solemn unspoken pronouncement of an eternal reproach and 
doom. And the radiant mirthful malice of the woman's eyes 
flashed up at that austerely sublime countenance in light scorn 
and ridicule, as with shriller yet still silver-sounding utterance, 
he cried again, 



112 B ARABS AS 

" Hearest thou me, thou boaster and blasphemer ? If thou 
be the Son of God, come down from the Cross!' 1 

As the wicked taunt left her lips for the second time, a 
twisted and broken flash of lightning descended from heaven 
like the flaming portion of a destroyed planet, and striking 
straight across the scarlet ball of the sun, seemed literally to set 
the Cross on fire. Blazing from end to end of its tranverse 
beams in a flare of blue and amber, it poured lurid reflections on 
all sides, illumining with dreadful distinctness the pallid shape 
of the Man of Sorrows for one ghastly instant, and then van- 
ished, chased into retreat by such a deafening clatter and clash 
of thunder as seemed to split a thousand rolling worlds in 
heaven. At the same moment the earth heaved up, and 
appeared to stagger like a ship in a wild sea, .... and with 
a sudden downward swoop as of some colossal eagle, dense 
darkness fell, impenetrable, sooty darkness that in one breath 
of time blotted out the face of nature and made of the sum- 
mer-flowering land a blind black chaos. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

SHRIEKS and groans, confusion and clamour, wild shouts 
for help, wilder cries for light, and the bewildering, mad- 
dening knowledge that numbers of reckless terrified human 
beings were rushing hither and thither, unseeingly and dis- 
tractedly, these were the first results of that abrupt descent 
of black night in bright day. " Light ! Give us light, 
God !" wailed a woman's voice piercing through the dismal 
dark ; and the frantic appeal, " Light ! light !" was re-echoed 
a thousand times by the miserable, desperate, wholly panic- 
stricken crowd. To and fro wandered straggling swarms of 
men and women, touching each other, grasping each other, but 
unable to discern the faintest outline of each other's forms or 
features. Some sought to grope their way down the hill, back 
to the city, some wrestled furiously with opposing groups of 
persons in their path, others, more timorous, stayed where 
they were, weeping, shrieking, striking their breasts and re- 
peating monotonously, " Light, light ! God of our fathers, 
give us light !" 



A DREAM OF THE WORLDS TRABEDT 113 

Bufc no answer to their supplications came from the sable 
pall that solemnly loomed above them, for now not even the 
lightning threw a chance spear across the clouds, though with 
incessant, unappeased ferocity, the thunder roared, or rolling to 
a distance muttered and snarled. A soldier of more self-pos- 
session and sense than his fellows managed after a little while 
to strike a light from flint and steel, and as soon as the red 
spark shone a hundred hands held out to him twigs and branches 
that they might be set on fire and so create a blazing luminance 
within the heavy gloom. But scarcely had a branch or two 
been kindled, when such a shriek went up from those on the 
edge of the crowd as froze the blood to hear. 

" The faces of the dead !" they cried" The dead are there, 
there in the darkness ! Shut them out ! Shut them out I 
They are all dead men I" 

This mad outcry was followed by the screams of women, 
mingled with hysterical bursts of laughter and weeping, many 
persons flinging themselves face forward on the ground in veri- 
table agonies of terror, and the soldier who had struck the 
light dropped his implements, paralysed and aghast. The 
kindled branches fell and sputtered out, and again the un- 
natural midnight reigned, supreme, impermeable. There was 
no order left ; the soldiery were scattered ; the mob were sepa- 
rated into lost and wandering sections ; and " Light ! light !" 
was the universal moan. Truly, in that sepulchral blackness, 
they were " the lost sheep of the house of Israel," ignorantly 
and foolishly clamouring for " light !" when the one and only 
Light of the World was passing through the " Valley of the 
Shadow," and all Nature in the great name of God, was bound 
to go with Him ! The atmosphere lost colour, the clouds 
thundered, earth trembled, the voices of birds and animals 
were mute, the trees had ceased to whisper their leafy loves 
and confidences, the streams stopped in their silver-sounding 
flow, the sun covered its burning face, the winds paused on 
their swift wings, and only Man asserted, with puny groans 
and tears, his personal cowardice and cruelty in the presence of 
the Eternal. But at this awful moment the powers of heaven 
were deaf to his complaining, and his craven cries for help were 
vain. Our shuddering planet, stricken with vast awe and 
wonder to its very centre, felt with its suffering Kedeemer the 
pangs of dissolution, and voluntarily veiled itself in the deep 
shadow of death, a shadow that was soon to be lifted and 
gloriously transformed into light and life immortal \ 
h 10* 



114 BAR ABB AS 

The heavy moments throbbed away, moments that seemed 
long as hours, and no little gleaming rift broke the settled 
and deepening blackness over Calvary. Many of the people, 
giving way to despair, cast themselves down in the dust and 
wept like querulous children, others huddled themselves to- 
gether in seated groups, stunned by fright into silence, a few 
howled and swore continuously, and all the conflicting noises 
merging together, suggested the wailing of lost beings in spirit- 
ual torment. All at once the strong voice of the high-priest 
Caiaphas, hoarse with fear, struck through the gloom. 

" People of Jerusalem !" he cried " Kneel and pray ! Fall 
down before the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, and 
entreat Him that this visitation of storm and earthquake be 
removed from us ! Jehovah hath never deserted His children, 
nor will He desert them now, though it hath pleased Him to 
afflict us with the thunders of His wrath ! Be not afraid, O 
ye chosen people of the Lord, but call upon Him with heart 
and voice to deliver us from this darkness! For we have 
brought His indignation upon ourselves, inasmuch as we have 
suffered the false prophet of Galilee to take His Holy Name 
in vain, and He doth show us by His lightnings the fiery letter 
of His just displeasure. And whereas these shadows that en- 
compass us are filled perchance with evil spirits who come to 
claim the soul of the boastful and blasphemous Nazarene, I say 
unto ye all, cover yourselves and pray to the God of your 
fathers, sons and daughters of Jerusalem, that He may no 
longer be offended, that He may hear your supplications in 
the time of trouble, and bring you out of danger into peace !" 

His exhortation, though pronounced in tremulous tones, was 
heard distinctly, and had the desired effect. With one accord 
the multitude fell on their knees, and in the thickening shadows 
that enveloped them began to pray as they were told, some 
silently, some aloud. Strange it was to hear the divers con- 
trasting petitions that now went muttering up to the invisible 
Unknown ; Latin tongues against Hebrew and Greek, ap- 
peals to Jupiter, Mercury, Diana, and Apollo, mingling with 
the melancholy chant and murmur of the Jews. 

" Our God, God of our fathers, let our prayer come before 
Thee ! Hide not Thyself from our supplication 1 We have 
sinned, we have turned aside from Thy judgments, And it 
hath profited us naught ! Remember us, God, and be merci- 
ful ! Consume us not with Thy just displeasure ! Be merci- 
ful and mindful of us for blessing 1 Save us unto life I By 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 115 

Thy promise of salvation and mercy, Spare us and be gracious 
unto us, God !" 

And while they stammered out the broken phrases, half in 
hope, half in fear, the thunder, gathering itself together like 
an army of war-horses and chariots, for sole reply crashed down 
upon them in the pitchy darkness with a fulminating ferocity 
so relentless and awful that the voices of all the people, Jews 
and aliens alike, died away in one long quavering, helpless 
human wail. Their prayers sank to affrighted whispers, and 
the thunder still pelting in angry thuds through the dense air, 
was as the voice of God pronouncing vast and unimaginable 
things. 

Meanwhile, as already described, Barabbas had rushed to- 
wards Judith Iscariot just as the darkness fell, and when the 
blinding vapours enveloped him he still kept on his course, 
striking out both arms as he ran that they might come first in 
contact with the woman he loved. He had calculated his 
distance well, for presently, his outstretched hands, groping 
needfully up and down in the sombre murk, touched a head 
that came to about the level of his knee, then folds of silk, 
then the outline of a figure that was huddled up on the 
ground quite motionless. 

" Judith ! Judith !" he whispered " Speak ! Is it thou ?'' 

No answer came. He stooped and felt the crouching form ; 
here and there he touched jewels, and then he remembered 
she had worn a dagger at her girdle. Cautiously passing his 
arms about, he found the toy weapon hanging from the waist 
of this invisible woman-shape, and realised, with a thrill of 
comfort, that he was right, it was Judith he touched, but 
she had evidently fainted from terror. He caught her, clasped 
her, lifted her up, and supported her against his breast, his 
heart beating with mingled despair and joy. Chafing her cold 
hands, he looked desperately into the dense obscurity, wonder- 
ing whether he could move from the spot without stumbling 
against one at least of tho>se three terrible crosses which he 
knew must be very near. For Judith had stood directly be- 
neath that on which the wondrous " Nazarene" was even now 
slowly dying, and she would scarcely have had time to move 
more than a few steps away when the black eclipse had drowned 
all things from sight. He, Barabbas, might at this moment be 
within an arm's length of that strange " King" whose crown 
was of thorns, an awful and awe-inspiring idea that filled him 
with horror. For, to be near that mysterious Man of Nazareth, 



116 BARABBAS 

to know that he might almost touch His pierced and bleed, 
ing feet, to feel perchance, in the horrid gloom, the sublime 
and mystic sorrow of His eyes, to hear the parting struggle 
of His breath, this would be too difficult, too harrowing, too 
overwhelming for the endurance or fortitude of one who knew 
himself to be the guilty sinner that should have suffered in the 
place of the Innocent and Holy. Seeking thus to account to 
his own mind for the tempestuous emotions which beset him, 
Barabbas moved cautiously backward, not forward, bearing in 
his recollection the exact spot in which he had seen Judith 
standing ere the black mist? fell ; and, clasping her firmly, he 
retreated inch by inch, till he thought he was far enough re- 
moved from that superhuman Symbol which made its unseen 
Presence all-dominant even in the darkness. Then he stopped, 
touching with gentle fingers the soft scented hair that lay 
against his breast, while he tried to realise his position. How 
many a time he would have given his life to have held Judith 
thus familiarly close to his heart ! but now, now there was 
something dreary, weird and terrible, in what, under other 
circumstances, would have been unspeakable rapture. Im- 
possible, in this black chaos, to see the features or the form of 
her whom he embraced ; only by touch he knew her ; and a 
faint chill ran through him as he supported the yielding supple 
shape of her in his arms, her silken robe, her perfumed hair, 
the cold contact of the gems about her, these trifles repelled 
him strangely, and a sense of something sinful oppressed his 
soul. Sin and he were old friends, they had rioted together 
through many a tangle of headstrong passion, why should he 
recoil at Sin's suggestions now ? He could not tell, but so it 
was ; and his brain swam with a nameless giddy horror, even 
while he ventured, trembling, to kiss the unseen lips of the 
creature he had but lately entirely loved, and now partly 
loathed. 

And, as he kissed her she stirred, her body quivered in 
his hold, consciousness returned, and in a moment or two she 
lifted herself upright. Sighing heavily, she murmured like 
one in a dream 

"Is it thou, Caiaphas?" 

A fierce pang contracted the heart of the unhappy man who 
loved her, he staggered, and almost let her fall from his em- 
brace. Then, controlling his voice with an effort, he answered 



Nay, it Is I, Barabbas." 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 117 

" Thou !" and she flung one arm about his neck and held 
him thus entwined " Thou were ever brave and manful ! 
save me, my love, save me ! Take me out of this darkness, 
there must be light in the city, and thou art fearless and 
skilful enough to find a way down this accursed hill." 

" I cannot, Judith !" he answered, his whole frame trem- 
bling at the touch of her soft caressing arm, " The world is 
plunged in an impenetrable night, storm and upheaval threaten 
the land, the city itself is blotted out from view. The peo- 
ple are at prayer ; none dare move without danger, there is 
no help for it but to wait, here where we are, till the light 
cometh." 

" What, thou art coward after all !" exclaimed Judith, 
shaking herself free from his clasp " Thou fool ! In the 
city lamps can be lit and fires kindled, and we be spared some 
measure of this gloom. If thou wert brave, and more than 
all, if thou did'st love me, thou would'st arouse thy will, thy 
strength, thy courage, thou would'st lead me safely through 
this darkness as only love can lead, but thou art like all men, 
selfish and afraid !" 

" Afraid ! Judith !" His chest heaved, his limbs quiv- 
ered. " Thou dost wrong me ! full well thou knowest thou 
dost wrong me !" 

" Prove it then !" said Judith eagerly, flinging herself 
against him and putting both arms round his neck confidingly 
" Lo, I trust thee more than any man ! Lead me from 
hence, we will move slowly and with care, thou shalt hold 
me near thy heart, the path is straight adown the hill, the 
crosses of the criminals are at the summit, as thou knowest, 
and if we trace the homeward track from hence surely it will 
be easy to feel the way." 

" What of the multitude ?" said Barabbas " Thou know- 
est not, Judith, how wildly they are scattered, how in their 
straying numbers they do obstruct the ground at every turn, 
and it is as though one walked at the bottom of the sea ac 
midnight, without the shine of moon or stars." 

" Nevertheless, if thou lovest me, thou wilt lead me," 
repeated Judith imperatively. "But thou dost not love 
me !" 

" I do not love thee ! I !" Barabbas paused, then caught 
the twining arms from about his neck and held them hard. 
" So well do I love thee, Judith, that, if thou playest me false, 
I can hate thee 1 ; Tis thou that art of dubious mind in love. 



118 BARABBAS 

I have loved only thce; but thou, perchance, eince I was 
chained in prison, hast loved others. Is it not so ? Speak !" 

For all answer she clung about his neck again and began to 
weep complainingly. 

" Ah, cruel Barabbas !" she wailed to him between her sobs, 
" Thou standest here in this darkness, prating of love while 
death doth threaten us. Lead me away I tell thee, take me 
homeward, and thou shalt have thy reward. Thou wilt not 
move from this accursed place which hath been darkened and 
confused by the evil spells of the Nazarene, thou wilt let me 
perish here, because thou dost prize thine own life more than 
mine !" 

" Judith ! Judith !" cried Barabbas in agony " Thou dost 
break my heart, thou dost torture my soul ! Beware how 
thou speakest of the dying Prophet of Galilee, for thou 
did'st taunt Him in His pain, and this darkness fell upon us 
when thy cruel words were spoken. Come, if thou must 
come ; but remember there is neither sight nor sense nor order 
in the scattered multitude through which we must tight our 
passage, 'twere safer to remain here, together, and pray." 

" I will not pray to God so long as He doth wantonly afflict 
us !" cried Judith loudly and imperiously " Let Him strike 
slaves with fear, I am not one to be so commanded ! An' 
thou wilt not help me I will help myself; I will stay no longer 
here to be slain by the tempest, when with courage I might 
reach a place of safety." 

She moved a step away, Barabbas caught her mantle. 

' ; Be it as thou wilt !" he said, driven to desperation by her 
words, " Only let me hold thee thus," and he placed one arm 
firmly round her, " Now measure each pace heedfully, walk 
warily lest thou stumble over some swooning human creature, 
and with thy hands feel the air as thou goest, for there are 
many dangers." 

As he thus yielded to her persuasions, she nestled against 
him caressingly, and lifted her face to his. In the gloom thoir 
lips met, and Barabbas, thrilled through every pulse of his 
being by that voluntary kiss of love, forgot his doubts, his sus- 
picions, his sorrows, his supernatural forebodings and fears, 
and moved on with her through the darkness as a lost and 
doomed lover might move with his soul's ruiu. through the 
black depths of hell. 



DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 119 



CHAPTER XIX. 

SLOWLY and cautiously they groped their way along and 
for two or three yards met with no obstacle. Judith was tri- 
umphant, and with every advancing step she took, began to 
feel more and more secure. 

" Did I not tell thee how it would be ?" she said exultingly, 
as she clung close to Barabbas, "Danger flies from the 
brave-hearted, and ere we know it we shall find ourselves at 
the foot of the hill." 

" And then ?" murmured Barabbas dubiously. 

" Then, doubt not but that we shall discover light and 
guidance. And I will take thee to my father's house, and tell 
him thou hast aided in my rescue, and he will remember that 
thou hast been freed from prison by the people's vote, and he 
will overlook thy past, and receive thee with honour. Will 
that not satisfy thee and make thee proud ?" 

He shuddered and sighed heavily. 

" Alas, Judith, honour and I are for ever parted, and I shall 
never be proud of aught in this world again ! There is a 
sorrow on my heart too heavy for me to lift, perchance 'tis 
my love for thee, perchance 'tis the weight of mine own folly 
and wickedness ; but be the burden what it may, I am stricken 
by a grief that will not vent itself in words. For 'tis I, 
Judith, I who should have died to-day, instead of the holy 
' Nazarene' 1" 

She gave an exclamation of contempt and laughed. 

" Callest thou him holy ?" she cried derisively " Then thou 
art mad ! or thou hast a devil 1 A malefactor, a deceiver, a 
trickster, a blasphemer, and holy !" 

Another liht laugh rippled from her lips, but was quickly 
muffled, for Barabbas laid his hands upon her mouth. 

" Hush, hush !" he muttered, " Be pitiful ! Some one 
is weeping, . . . out there in the gloom ! Hush !" 

She struggled with him angrily, and twisted herself out of 
his hold. 

" What do I care who weeps or laughs ?" she exclaimed, 
" Why dost thou pause ? Art stricken motionless ?" 

But Barabbas replied not. He was listening to a melaa- 



120 BARABBAS 

choly sobbing sound that trembled through tbe darkness, the 
sorrowing clamour of a woman's breaking beart, and a strange 
anguish oppressed him. 

"Come!" cried Judith. 

He roused himself with an effort. 

" I can go no further with tbee, Judith," he said sadly, 
"Something, I know not what, drags me back. I am 
giddy, faint, I cannot move I" 

"Coward!" she exclaimed "Farewell then! I go on 
without thee." 

She sprang forward but he caught her robe and detained 
her. 

" Nay, have patience, wait but a moment" he implored 
in tones that were hoarse and unsteady " I will force my 
steps on with thee, even if I die. I have sinned for thy sake 
in the past it matters little if I sin again. But from my 
soul I do beseech thee that thou say no more evil of the 
' Nazarene' I" 

"What art thou, that thou should'st so command me?" 
she demanded contemptuously, " And what has the ' Naza- 
rene' to do with thee, save that he was sentenced to death 
instead of thou ? Thou weak slave ! Thou, who did'st steal 
pearls only because I said I loved such trinkets ! oh, worthy 
Barabbas, to perjure thyself for a woman's whim ! thou, who 
did'st slay Gabrias because he loved me !" 

" Judith 1" A sudden access of fury heated his blood, 
and seizing her in both arms roughly he held her as in a vice. 
" This is no time for folly, and whether this darkness be of 
heaven or hell, thou darest not swear falsely with death so 
close about us ! Take heed of me ! for if thou liest I will 
slay thee! Callest thou me weak? Nay, I am strong, 
strong to love and strong to hate, and as evil in mind and 
passion as any man ! I will know the truth of thee, Judith, 
before I move, or let thee move another inch from hence ! 
Gabrias loved thee, thou sayest, come, confess, did'st thou 
in thy turn love Gabrias ?" 

She writhed herself to and fro in his grasp rebelliously. 

"I love no man !" she cried in defiance and anger. "AD 
men love me ! Am I not the fairest woman in Judaea ? and 
thou speakest to me of one lover one ! And thou would'st 
be that one thyself? fool ! What aileth thee? Lo, thou 
hast me here in thine arms, thou can'st take thy fill of kisses 
an' thou wilt, I care naught so long as thou dost not linger 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 121 

on this midnight way. I offer thee my lips, I am thy sole 
companion for a little space, be grateful and content that 
thou hast so much. Gabrias loved me I tell thee, with 
passion, yet guardedly, but now there are many greater than 
he who love me, and who have not his skill to hide their 
thought" 

"Such as the high-priest Caiaphas!" interrupted Barabbas 
in choked fierce accents. 

i She gave a little low laugh of triumph and malice com- 
mingled. 

" Come !" she said, disdaining to refute his suggestion, 
" Come, and trouble not thyself concerning others, when for 
this hour at least I am all thine. Rejoice in the advantage 
this darkness gives thee, lo, I repel thee not ! only come, 
and waste no more precious time in foolish questioning." 

He loosened his arms abruptly from about her, and stood 
motionless. 

" Come I" she cried again. 

He gave her no response. 

She rushed at him and clutched him by his mantle, putting 
up her soft face to his, and showering light kisses on his lips 
and throat. 

" Barabbas, come !" she clamoured in his ears " Lead me 
onward ! thou shalt have love enough for many days !" 

He thrust her away from him loathingly. 

" Get thee hence !" he cried, " Fairest woman of Judaea, 
as thou callest thyself and as thou art, tempt me no more lest 
in these hellish vapours I murder thee ! Yea, even as I mur- 
dered Gabrias ! Had I thought his boast of thee was true, 
he should have lived, and thou should'st have been slain ! 
Get thee hence, thou ruin of men ! get thee hence, alone ! 
I will not go with thee ! I tear the love of thee from out my 
heart, and if I ever suffer thy fair false face to haunt my 
memory, may Heaven curse my soul ! I take shame upon 
myself that I did ever love thee, thou evil snare ! deceive 
others as thou wilt, thou shalt deceive Barabbas no more !" 

Again she laughed, a silvery mocking laugh, and like some 
soft lithe snake, twined herself fawningly about him. 

" No more ?" she queried in dulcet whispers " Thou wilt 
not be deceived, thou poor Barabbas? thou wilt hot be 
caressed? thou wilt no longer be my slave? Alas, thou 
can'st not help thyself, good fool! I feel thee tremble, I 
hear thee sigh ! come, come !" and she pulled him per- 
r 11 



122 BARABBAS 

suasively by the arm, " Come ! and perchance thou shalt 
have a victory thou drearnest not of!" 

For one dizzy moment he half yielded, and suffered himself 
to be dragged forward a few paces like a man in a dull stupor 
of fever or delirium, then, the overpowering emotion he had 
felt before, came upon him with tenfold force, and again he 
stopped. 

"No!" he exclaimed " No, I will not! I cannot! No 
more, no more ! I will go no further !" 

" Die then, fool, in thy folly !" she cried, and bounded away 
from him into the gloom. Hardly had she disappeared, when 
a monster clap of thunder burst the sky, and a ball of fire fell 
to earth, hissing its way through the darkness like a breaking 
bomb. At the same instant with subterranean swirl and rumble 
the ground yawned asunder in a wide chasm from which arose 
serpentine twists of fiery vapour and forked tongues of flame. 
Paralysed with horror, Barabbas stared distractedly at this 
terrific phenomenon, and as he looked, saw the lately vanished 
Judith made suddenly visible in a glory of volcanic splendour. 
Her figure, brilliantly lighted up by the fierce red glow, was 
on the very edge of the hideous chasm, and appeared to blaze 
there like a spirit of fire. Had she gone one step further, she 
would have been engulfed within its depths, as it was she had 
escaped by a miracle. For one moment Barabbas beheld her 
thus, a glittering phantom as she seemed, surrounded by dense 
pyramids of smoke and jets of flame, then, with another 
underground roar and trembling the ghastly light was quenched 
and blackness closed in again, impenetrable blackness in which 
nothing could be seen, and nothing heard save the shrieks and 
groans of the people. 



CHAPTER XX. 

THE panic was now universal and uncontrollable. Crowds 
of frantic creatures, struggling, screaming, weeping, and fight- 
ing invisibly with one another, rushed madly up and down in 
the darkness, flinging themselves forward and backward like the 
swirling waves of a sea. The murky air resounded with yells 
and curses, now and then a peal of hideous laughter rang 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 123 

out, and sometimes a piercing scream of pain or terror, while 
under all these louder and more desperate noises ran the mo- 
notonous murmuring of prayer. The impression and expecta- 
tion of renewed disaster burdened the minds of all ; the shud- 
dering trouble of the earth had terrified the boldest, and many 
were in momentary dread that the whole hill of Calvary would 
crumble beneath them and swallow them up in an abyss of fire. 
Barabbas stood still where Judith had left him, his limbs 
quivering, and a cold sweat breaking out over all his body, 
yet he was not so much conscious of fear as of horror, hor- 
ror and shame of himself and of the whole world. An inef- 
faceable guilt seemed branded on mankind, though how this 
conviction was borne in upon him he could not tell. Pres- 
ently, determining to move, he began to retrace his steps cau- 
tiously backward, wondering, with a sinking heart, whether 
Judith had still gone on ? She must have realised her danger ; 
she would never have proceeded further, knowing of that fright- 
ful rent in the ground, into which, in her wilful recklessness, 
she had so nearly plunged. Once he called " Judith !" loudly, 
but there was no response. 

Stumbling along in doubt and dread, his foot suddenly came 
in contact with a figure lying prone, and stooping to trace its 
outline, he touched cold steel. 

" Take heed, whosoe'er thou art," said a smothered voice, 
" and wound not thyself against my sword-edge. I am Petro- 
nius." 

" Dost thou find safety here, soldier ?" inquired Barabbas 
tremulously " Kuowesfc thou where thou art in this dark- 



" I have not moved from hence" replied Petronius ; " I 
was struck as by a shock from heaven, and I have stayed as I 
fell. What would it avail me to wander up and down ? More- 
over, such as I am, die at their post if die they must, and 
my post is here, close by the Cross of the ' Nazarene.' " 

Barabbas shuddered, and his blood grew cold in his veins. 

" Is He dead ?" he asked in hushed awed accents. 

" Nay, He breathes yet' 1 replied the centurion with equal 
emotion " And He suffers!" 

Yielding to an overwhelming impulse of passion and pain, 
Barabbas groped his way on a few steps, and then, halting, 
stretched out his hands. 

"Where art thou?" he muttered faintly "0 thou who 
diest in my wretchsd stead, where art thou?" 



124 BARABBAS 

He listened, but caught no sound save that of sobbing. 

Keeping his hands extended, he felt the dense air up and 
down. 

" Who is it that weeps ?" he asked, softening his voice to its 
gentlest tone " Speak to ine, I beseech thee ! whether man 
or woman, speak ! for behold I am a sinner and sorrowful as 
thou 1" 

A long, low gasping sigh quivered through the gloom, a 
sigh of patient pain ; and Barabbas, knowing instinctively 
Who it was that thus expressed His human sense of torture, 
was seized by an agony he could not quell. 

" Where art thou ?" he implored again in indescribable anx- 
iety " I cannot feel thee, I cannot find thee 1 Darkness 
covers the world and I am lost within it ! Thy sufferings, 
Nazarene, exceed all speech, yet, evil man as I am, I swear my 
heart is ready to break with tbine !" 

And as he thus spoke involuntarily and incoherently, he 
flung himself on his knees, and scalding tears rushed to his 
eyes. A trembling hand touched him, a woman's hand. 

" Hush !" whispered a broken voice in the gloom " Thou 
poor, self-tormented sinner, calm thyself, and pray ! Fear not ; 
count not up thy transgressions, for were they more numerous 
than the grains of sand in the desert, thy tears and sorrows 
here should win thy pardon. Kneel with us, if thou wilt, and 
watch ; for the end approaches, the shadows are passing, aud 
light is near." 

" If this bo so," said Barabbas, gently detaining the small 
hand that touched him " Why dost thou still continue to 
weep? Who art thou that art so prodigal of tears?" 

" Naught but woman," answered the sweet whispering 
voice " And as woman I weep, for the great Love's wrong !" 

She withdrew her hand from his clasp, and he remained 
where he was beside her, quietly kneeling. Conscious of the 
nearness of the Cross of the " Nazarene" and of those who 
were grouped about it he felt no longer alone, but the weight 
of the mysterious sorrow he carried within himself perceptibly 
increased. It oppressed his heart and bewildered his brain, 
the darkness seemed to encircle him with an almost palpable 
density, and he began to consider vaguely that it would be 
well for him, if he too, might die on Calvary with that mystic 
" King" whose personality had exercised so great a fascination 
over him. What had he to live for ? Nothing. He was out- 
cast through his own wickedness, and as the memory of his 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 125 

sins clouded his mind he grew appalled at the evil in his 
own nature. His crimes of theft and murder were the result 
of his blind passion for Judith Iscariot, and this blind 
passion now seemed to him the worst crime of all. For this 
his name and honour were gone, for this he had become 
a monster of iniquity in his own sight. Yet, strange to say, 
only that very morning, he had not thought himself so vile. 
Between the hours of his being brought before Pilate, and now, 
when he knelt in this supernatural darkness before the un- 
seen dying " Man of Nazareth," an age seemed to have passed, 
a cycle of time burdened with histories, histories of the 
soul and secret conscience, which are of more weight in God's 
countings than the histories of empires. The people had re- 
leased him, they had hailed him, the liberated thief and mur- 
derer, with acclamations, true ! but what was all this popu- 
lar clamour worth when in his own heart he knew himself to 
be guilty of the utmost worst that could be done to him ? Oh, 
the horrible horrible burden of recognised sin ! the dragging 
leaden weight that ties the immortal spirit down to grossness 
and materialism when it would fain wing its way to the high- 
est attainment ! the crushing consciousness of being driven 
back into darkness out of light supernal ! of being thrust 
away as it were, with loathing, out of the sight and knowledge 
of the Divine ! This was a part of the anguish of Barabbas, 
a mental anguish he had never felt till now, and this was 
why he almost envied his former comrade Hanan for having 
been elected to die in the companionship of the " Nazarene." 
All these thoughts of his were purely instinctive ; he could not 
reason out his emotions, because they were unlike himself and 
new to him. Nevertheless, if he uttered a prayer at all while 
kneeling in that solemn gloom, it was for death, not life. 

And now, all suddenly through the heavy murk, a muffled 
clangour stirred the air, the tolling of great bells and smaller 
chimes from the city. Swinging and jangling they made them- 
selves heard distinctly for the first time since the darkness fell 
over the land, a sign that the atmosphere was growing clearer. 
They were ringing out the hour of sunset, though no sun was 
visible. And, as they rang, Barabbas felt that some one near 
him moved softly among the shadows and stood upright. He 
strove to discern the outline of that risen shape, and presently, 
to his intense amazement, saw a pale light begin to radiate 
through the vapours and gradually weave a faintly luminous 
halo round the majestic form of a Woman, whose face, divinely 
11* 



126 BARABBAS 

beautiful, supremely sad, shone forth from the darkness like a 
star, and whose clasped hands were stretched towards the great 
invisible Cross in an attitude of yearning and prayer. And 
the bells rang and the light widened, and in two or three mo- 
ments more, a jagged rift of dusky red opened in the black 
sky. Broadening slowly, it spread a crimson circle in the 
heavens immediately behind the summit of the Cross of the 
" Nazarene" first casting ruddy flashes on the inscribed letters 
"Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," and then illumining 
with a flame-like glow the grand thorn-crowned head of the 
Crucified. Ah, what sublime, unspeakable, mystic agony was 
written now upon that face Divine ! Horror of the world's sin 
pity for the world's woe, love for the world's poor creatures, 
and the passionate God's yearning for the world's pardon and 
better hope of heaven, all these great selfless thoughts were 
seen in the indescribably beautiful expression of the pallid 
features, the upward straining eyes, the quivering, tender 
lips, and Barabbas staring at the wondrous sight, felt as though 
his very soul and body must melt and be dissolved in tears for 
such a kingly Sorrow ! The blood-red cleft in the sky length- 
ened, and, presently shooting forth arrowy beams as of fire, 
showed a strange and solemn spectacle. For as far as eye could 
see in the lurid storm-light, the whole multitude of the people 
upon Calvary were discovered kneeling before the Cross of 
Christ ! All faces were turned towards the dying Saviour ; in 
trouble, in fear and desperation, every human creature there had 
fallen unknowingly before their only Rescue whose name was 
Love ! and, as the darkness broke up and parted in long wavy 
lines, the widening radiance of the heavens revealed what 
seemed to be a worshipping world ! . . . But only for an 
inetant, for with the gathering, growing light came the rush 
of every-day life and movement, the prostrate crowd leaped 
up with shouts of joy, glad exclamations of relief and laugh- 
ter, danger was over, death no longer seemed imminent, 
and as a natural result God was forgotten. The thunder still 
growled heavily, but its echoes were rolling off into the far 
distance. And while the people grew more and more animated, 
scattering themselves in every direction, finding and embracing 
their friends and narrating their past fears, Barabbas rose also 
from his knees, wondering, awed and afraid. Directly facing 
him was the Cross of the " Nazarene," but, beside him was 
the Magdalen I With her he had knelt in the deep darkness, 
it must have been her hand that had touched him, it must 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 127 

have been her voice that had so gently soothed him. He 
trembled ; she was a woman of many sins, yet was she, was 
she so much worse than, than Judith ? His soul sickened 
as this comparison crossed his mind ; yet, loathe it as he 
might, it still forced itself upon his attention. Judith Iscariot, 
beautiful, imperious, and triumphant in the secrecy of undis- 
covered sin, Mary Magdalene, beautiful also, but broken- 
hearted, humbled to the dust of contempt, openly shamed, 
and penitent. Which of the twain deserved the greater con- 
demnation ? 

A deep sigh, broke from his lips, a sigh that was almost a 
groan; an evil man himself, what right had he to judge of 
evil women 1 Just then the Magdalen raised her tear-wet eyes 
and looked at him, her luxuriant hair fell about her like a 
golden veil, her mouth quivered as though she were about to 
speak, but as she met his sternly meditative gaze, she re- 
coiled, and hiding her face in the folds of her mantle, dragged 
herself nearer to the foot of the Cross and crouched there, 
motionless. And the other woman, she for whom, as Barab- 
bas imagined, the welcome light had been kindled in the begin- 
ning, what of her? She no longer stood erect as when the 
bells had rung, she had fallen once more upon her knees, 
and her face, too, was hidden. 

Suddenly a voice, pulsating with keenest anguish, yet sweet 
and resonant, pealed through the air : 

" Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani!" 

"With one accord the moving populace all came to an abrupt 
halt, and every eye was turned towards the central Cross from 
whence these thrilling accents rang. Bars of gold were in the 
sky, and now, the long-vanished sun, red as a world on fire, 
showed itself in round splendour above the summit of Calvary. 

".7i, Eli, lama sabacthani!" cried the rich agonised voice 
again, and the penetrating appeal, piercing aloft, was caught 
up in the breaking clouds and lost in answering thunder. 

"He calleth for Elias /" exclaimed a man, one of those in 
the front rank of the crowd that was now pressing itself towards 
the Cross in morbid curiosity, " Let us see whether JSlias will 
come to take him down /" 

And he laughed derisively. 

Meanwhile Petronius, the centurion, looked up, and saw 
that the last great agony of death was on the " Nazarene." 
Death in the bloom of life, death, when every strong human 
nerve and sinew and drop of blood most potently rebelled at 



128 BARABBAS 

such premature dissolution, death in a torture more hideous 
than imagination can depict or speech describe, this was the 
fate that now darkly descended upon divinest Purity, divinest 
Love ! Terrible shudderings ran through the firm, heroically 
moulded Man's frame, the beautiful eyes were rolled up and 
fixed, the lips were parted, and the struggling breath panted 
forth in short quick gasps. The fiery gold radiance of the 
heavens spread itself out in wider glory, the sun was sinking 
rapidly. Moved by an impulse of compassion, Petronius 
whispered to a soldier standing by, who, obeying his officer's 
suggestion, dipped a sponge in vinegar and, placing it on a tall 
reed, lifted it to the lips of the immortal Sufferer, with the 
intention of moistening the parched tongue and reviving the 
swooning senses. But there was no sign that He was conscious, 
and while the soldier still endeavoured to pass the sponge 
gently over the bleeding brows to cool and comfort the torn 
and aching flesh, the sleek priest Annas stepped forward from 
amongst the people and interfered. 

" Let be, let be!" said he suavely and with a meek smile, 
" Let us see whether Elias will come to save him /" 

The crowd murmured approval, the soldier dropped the 
reed, and glancing at Petronius, drew back and stood apart. 
Petronius frowned heavily, and surveyed the portly priest with 
all a martial Roman's anger and disdain; then he raised his 
eyes again, sorrowfully and remorsefully, to the tortured figure 
of the Crucified. Harder aud faster came the panting breath ; 
and, by some inexplicable instinct all the soldiers and as many 
of the multitude as could get near, gathered together in solemn 
silence, and stared up as though fascinated by some mystic 
spell at the last fierce struggle between that pure Body and 
divine Spirit. The sun was disappearing, and from its fall- 
ing disc, huge beams rose up on every side, driving all the 
black and thunderous clouds in the direction of Jerusalem, 
where they hung darkening over the city and Solomon's Tem- 
ple. Suddenly the difficult breathing of the "Nazarene" 
ceased ; a marvellous luminance fell on the upturned face, 
the lips that had been parted in gasping agony closed in a 
dreamy smile of perfect peace, and a flaming golden glory, 
wing-shaped and splendid, woven as it seemed out of all the 
varying hues of both storm and sunset, spread itself on either 
side of the Cross. Upward, to the topmost visible height of 
heaven, these giant cloud-pinions towered plume-wise, and 
between them, and behind the dying Christ, the sun, now 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 129 

sunk to a half-circle, glittered like an enormous jewelled mon- 
strance for the Host in some cathedral of air. In the midst 
of this ethereal radiance the pale face of the world's Redeemer 
shone forth, rapt and transfigured by mysterious ecstasy, and 
His voice, faint, solemn but melodious as music itself, thrilled 
softly through the light and silence : 
j, " Father I Into thy hands . . . I commend my Spirit /" 

As the words were uttered, Petronius and the soldier who had 
proffered the vinegar, exchanged a glance, a rapid glance of 
mutual suggestion and understanding. With assumed rough- 
ness and impatience, the soldier raised his spear and deliberately 
thrust it deep into the side of the dying " Nazarene." A 
stream of blood gushed out, mingled with water ; and the man 
whose merciful desire to put an end to torture had thus im- 
pelled him to pierce the delicate flesh, sprang back, vaguely 
affrighted at what he had done. For, with the sharp shock 
of the blow, the thorned-crowned Head drooped suddenly, 
the eyes that had been turned to heaven now looked down, 
. . . down, for the last time to earth, . . . and rested upon 
the watching crowd with such an unspeakable passion of pity, 
love, and yearning, that all the people were silent, stricken 
with something like shame as well as awe. Never again in all 
the centuries to come would such a Love look down upon 
Humanity ! never again would the erring world receive such 
a sublime Forgiveness ! such a tender parting Benediction ! 
The wondrous smile still lingered on the pale lips, a light 
more glorious than all the sunshine that ever fell on earth, 
illumined the divinely beautiful features. One last, lingering, 
compassionate gaze, the clear, searching, consciously supernal 
gaze of an immortal God bidding farewell for ever to mortality, 
and then, . . . with an exulting: sweetness and solemnity,, the 
final words were uttered : 

" It is finished /' ' 

The fair head fell forward heavily on the chest, the tor- 
tured limbs quivered once . . . twice . . . and then were 
still. Death had apparently claimed its own, and no sign 
was given to show that Death itself was mastered. All was 
over ; God's message had been given, and God's Messenger 
slain. The law was satisfied with its own justice ! A god 
could not have died, but He who had been called the " Son, 
of God" was dead ! It was " finished ;" the winged glory 
in the skies folded itself up and fled away, and like a torch 
inverted, the red sun dropped into the night, 
t 



130 BARABBAS 



CHAPTER XXL 

A BRIEF pause ensued. The solemn hush that even in a 
callous crowd invariably attends the actual presence of death 
reigned unbroken for a while, then one man moved, another 
spoke, the spell of silence gave way to noise and general ac- 
tivity, and the people began to disperse hastily, eager to get 
back safely to their homes before the deepening night entirely 
closed in. Some compassion was expressed for the women who 
were crouched at the foot of the " Nazarene's" Cross, but no 
one went near them, or endeavoured to rouse them from their 
forlorn attitudes. Barabbas had, unconsciously to himself, re- 
coiled from the horror of beholding the Divine death-agony, 
and now stood apart, his eyes fixed on the ground and his tired 
body quivering in every limb. The populace appeared to have 
forgotten him, they drifted past him in shoals, talking, laugh- 
ing, and seemingly no longer seriously oppressed by the recol- 
lection of the terrifying events of the afternoon. The three 
crosses stood out black against the darkening sky ; the execu- 
tioners were beginning to take down the body of Hanan in 
which a few wretched gasps of life still lingered. Looking 
from right to left, Barabbas could see no face familiar to him, 
the high-priest Caiaphas and Annas had disappeared, there 
was no sign of Judith Iscariot anywhere, and he could not 
even perceive the striking and quaintly garbed figure of his 
mysterious acquaintance Melchior. The only person he recog- 
nised was Petronius the centurion, who was still at his post by 
the central Cross, and who by his passive attitude and downcast 
eyes appeared to be absorbed in melancholy meditation. Ba- 
rabbas approached him, and saw that his rough bearded face 
was wet with tears. 

"Truly" he muttered beneath his breath as he thrust his 
sword of office back into its scabbard " Truly this Man was 
the Son of God!" 

Barabbas caught the words, and stared at him in questioning 
terror. 

"Thinkest thou so?" he faltered " Then . . . what shall 
be done to those who have slain Him ?" 

" I know not," answered Petronius, " I am an ignorant 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 131 

fool. But perchance no more ignorant than they who did pre- 
fer thy life, Barabbas, to the life of the ' Nazarene.' Nay, 
look not so heavily ! thou art not to blame, 'twas not thy 
choosing. 'Twas not even the people's choosing 'twas the 
priests' will ! A curse on priests, say I ! they have worked 
all the evil in the world from the beginning, blaspheming the 
names of the Divine to serve their ends. This Crucified Man 
was against priestcraft, hence His doom. But I tell thee this 
same ' King of the Jews' as they called Him, was diviner than 
any of the gods I wot of, and mark me ! we have not seen 
or heard the last of Him 1" 

He turned away with a kind of fierce impatience and shame 
of his own emotion, and resumed his duty, that of superintend- 
ing the taking down of the three crucified bodies from their 
respective trees of torture. Barabbas sighed, and stood look- 
ing on, pained and irresolute. The shadows of night darkened 
swiftly, and the figure of the dead Christ above him seemed 
strange and spectral, pathetic in its helplessness, yet . . . 
after all, a beautiful lifeless body, and . . . nothing more I 
A sense of bitter disappointment stole over him. He now 
realised that throughout the whole of the terrible tragedy, he 
had, unconsciously to himself, believed it impossible for the 
wondrous " Man of Nazareth" to die. The impression had 
been firmly fixed in his mind, he knew not how, that at the last 
moment, some miracle would be enacted in the presence of the 
whole multitude ; that either the Cross itself would refuse to 
hold its burden, or that some divinely potent messenger from 
heaven, whose heralds had been the storm and earthquake, 
would suddenly descend in glory and proclaim the suffering 
"Prophet" as the true Messiah. Surely if He had been in- 
deed the " Son of God" as Petronius said, His power would 
have been thus declared ! To Barabbas the present end of 
things seemed inadequate. Death was the ordinary fate of 
men ; he would have had the kingly " Nazarene" escape the 
common lot. And while he pondered the bewildering problem, 
half in vexation, half in sorrow, a voice said softly in his ear 

" It is finished !" 

He started, and turned to behold his friend, the mystic Mel- 
chior, whose dark features were ghastly with a great pallor, but 
who nevertheless forced a grave and kindly smile as he re- 
peated, 

"7< is finished ! Did'st thou not also, with all the rest of 
the world, receive that marvellous assurance? Henceforth 



132 BAR ABB AS 

there will bo no true man alive who fears to die ! Come ; we 
have no more to do here ; our presence is somewhat of a 
sacrilege. Leave the dead Christ to the tears and lamentations 
of the women who loved Him. We men have done our part ; 
we have murdered Him 1" 

He drew Barabbas away despite his expressed reluctance. 

" I tell thee," he said " thou shalt see this Wonder of the 
Ages again at an hour thou dreamest not of. Meantime, come 
with me, and hesitate no more to follow out thy destiny." 

"My destiny!" echoed Barabbas "Stranger, thou dost 
mock me ! If thou hast any mystic power, read my soul and 
measure its misery. I have no destiny save despair." 

"Despair is a blank prospect," said his companion tranquilly, 
" Nevertheless because a woman is false and thy soul is weak 
thou needest not at once make bosom-friends with desperation. 
Did'st thou discover thy Judith in the darkness ?" 

The sombre eyes of Barabbas flashed with mingled wrath 
and anguish as he answered 

" Ay, I found her, and, I lost her !" 

" Never was loss so fraught with gain I" said Melchior 
" I saw her, when the light began to pierce the storm-clouds, 
hurrying swiftly down the hill citywards." 

" Then she is safe 1" exclaimed Barabbas, unable to conceal 
the joy he felt at this news. 

" Truly she is, or she should be," responded Melchior ; 
" She had most excellent saintly protection. The high-priest 
Caiaphas was with her." 

Barabbas uttered a fierce oath and clenched his fist. Mel- 
chior observed him attentively. 

" Methinks thou art still in her toils," he said " Untutored 
savage as thou art, thou can'st not master thy ruffian passions. 
Nevertheless I will yet have patience with thee." 

11 Thou wilt have patience with me!" muttered Barabbas 
with irritation, "Thou wilt! Nay, but who art thou, and 
what hast thou to do with me, now or at any future time ?" 

"What have I to do with thee?" repeated Melchior 
" Why nothing ! Only this. That being studiously inclined, 
I make thee an object of my study. Thou art an emblem of 
thy race in days to come, Barabbas; as I before told thee, 
thou art as much the symbol of the Israelites as yonder cruci- 
fied ' Nazarene' is the symbol of a new faith and civilisation. 
Did I not say to thee a while ago that thou, and not He must 
be from henceforth ' King of the Jews' ? " 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 133 

"I understand thee not," said Barabbas wearily "Thou 
wilt ever speak in parables!" 

" 'Tis the custom of the East" answered Melchior com- 
posedly, " And I will read thee the parable of thyself at some 
more fitting time. At present the night is close upon us, and 
there is yet much to be done for the world's wonderment, . . . 
stay ! whom have we here '?" 

He stopped abruptly, holding Barabbas back by the arm. 
They had nearly stumbled over the prostrate form of a man 
who was stretched out on the turf face downward, giving no 
other sign of life save a convulsive clutching movement of his 
hands. Melchior bent over him and tried to raise him, but his 
limbs were so rigidly extended that he appeared to be positively 
nailed to the ground. 

" He is in some fit, or hath the falling-sickness" said 
Barabbas, " Or he hath been smitten thus with terror of the 
earthquake." 

All at once as they still made efforts to lift him, the fallen 
man turned up a ghastly face and stared at them as though he 
saw some hideous and appalling vision. Tearing up handfuls 
of the grass and earth in his restless fingers, he struggled into 
a kneeling posture, and still surveyed them with so much wild- 
ness and ferocity that they involuntarily drew back, amazed. 

" What will ye do to me ?" he muttered hoarsely, " What 
death will ye contrive ? Stretch me on a rack of burning iron, 
tear my bones one by one from out my flesh, let the 
poisoned false blood ooze out drop by drop from my veins, 
do all this and ye shall not punish me as I deserve ! There 
are no ways of torture left for such an one as I am !" And 
with a frightful cry he suddenly leaped erect. " Coward, 
coward, coward !" he shrieked, tossing his arms wildly in the 
air. (< Coward ! Brand it on the face of heaven ! the only 
name left to me coward ! False treacherous coward ! Write 
it on stone, post it up in every city, shout it in the streets 
tell all the world of me, me, the wretched and accursed 
man, the follower of the Christ, the faithless servant who 
denied his Master !" 

With another terrible cry, he again flung himself on the 
ground and throwing his arms over his head, wept aloud in all 
the fierce abandonment of a strong man's utter misery. 

Melchior and Barabbas stood beside him, silent. At last 
Melchior spoke. 

" If thou art Peter" he began. 
12 



134 BARABBAS 

" Oh, that I were not !" cried the unhappy man" Oh, that 
I were anything in the world, a dog, a stone, a clod of earth, 
anything but myself! Look you, what is a man worth, who, 
in the hour of trial, deserts his friend ! And, such a Friend ! 
a King a God !" Tears choked his voice for a moment's 
space ; then raising his forlorn head, he looked piteously at his 
interlocutors. " Ye are strangers to me" he said " Why do 
ye stand there pitying ? Ye know naught of what has chanced 
concerning the Man of Nazareth." 

" We know all," replied Melchior with grave gentleness 
" And for the ' Nazarene,' grieve not, inasmuch as His 
sorrows are over, He is dead." 

" Ye know naught naught of the truth 1" cried Peter de- 
spairingly " That He is dead is manifest, for the world is 
dark as hell without Him 1 Yea, He is dead ; but ye know 
not how His death was wrought ! I watched Him die ; afar 
off I stood, always afar off! afraid to approach Him, afraid 
to seek His pardon, afraid of His Goodness, afraid of my 
wickedness. Last night He looked at me, looked at me 
straightly when I spoke a lie. Three times did I falsely swear 
I never knew Him, and He, He said no word, but only 
looked and gently smiled. Why, oh, why" moaned the 
miserable man, breaking into tears again, " why, when I de- 
nied His friendship did He not slay me ? why did not the 
earth then open and swallow me in fire ! Nay, there was no 
quick vengeance taken, only that one look of His, that look 
of pity and of love ! God, God ! I feel those heavenly 
eyes upon me now, searching the secrets of my soul !" 

Weeping, he hid his face, his wretchedness was so complete 
and crushing that the hardest and most unpitying heart in the 
world would have been moved to compassion for such bitter 
and remorseful agony. Barabbas, inclined to despise him at 
first for the confession of his base cowardice, relented some-) 
what at the sight of so much desperation, and there was at 
certain touch of tenderness in the austerity of Melchior's 
manner, as with a few earnest words he persuaded the sorrow- 
ing disciple to rise and lean upon his arm. 

u What is past is past," he said gravely " Thou can'st 
never undo, Peter, what thou hast done, and this falsehood 
of thine must needs be chronicled for all time as a token to 
prove a truth, the awful truth that often by one act, one 
word, man makes his destiny. Alas for thee, Peter, that thou 
too must serve as symbol ! A symbol of error, for on thy 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 135 

one lie, self-serving men will build a fabric of lies in which the 
Master whom thou hast denied will have no part. I know thy 
remorse is great as thy sin, yet not even remorse can change 
the law, for every deed, good or evil, that is done in this 
world, works out its own inexorable result. Nevertheless thou 
hast not erred so wickedly as thy fellow, Judas." 

" Nay, but he could die !" cried Peter, turning his wild white 
face to the dark heavens " Judas could die ! but I, coward . 
as I am, live on I" 

Barabbas started violently. 

" Die ?" he exclaimed, " What sayest thou ? Judas? Judas 
Iscariot ? He is not dead ?" 

Peter threw up his arms with a frenzied gesture of despair. 

" Not dead ? not dead ?" he echoed shrilly " If ye do 
not believe me, come and see 1 Come ! Down by Gethsemane 
ye will find him, outside the garden, in a dark hollow sloping 
downward like a grave, under the thickest shadows of the 
olive-trees and close to the spot where he betrayed the Master. 
There ye shall behold him !" and his agonised voice sank to a 
shuddering whisper ; " His body hangs from a gnarled leafless 
branch like some untimely fruit of hell, some monstrous birth 
of devils ! the very air seems poisoned by his livid corpse ! 
Horrible ! . . . horrible ! ... ye know not how he looks, 
. . . dead, . . . aod swinging from the leafless bough ! He 
slew himself thus last night rather than face this day, would 
to God I had done likewise 1 so should I have been even as 
he, cold, stiff" and free from torturing memory these many 
hours !" 

Overwhelmed by this new and unexpected horror, Barabbas 
felt as though the earth were giving way beneath him, he 
staggered and would have fallen had not Melchior caught him 
by the arm. 

" Judith !" he gasped hoarsely " Judith ! her brother 
dead and self-slain ! How will she bear it ! Oh, my God, 
my God ! who will tell her 1" 

Peter heard the muttered words and gave vent to a bitter 
cry of misery and fury. 

"Who will tell her!" he shrieked I will! I will con- 
front the fiend in woman's shape, the mocking, smiling, sweet- 
voiced, damned devil who lured us on to treachery ! Judith, 
sayest thou ? Bring me to her, confront me with her, and I 
will blazon forth the truth ! I will rend heaven asunder with 
mine accusation 1" 



136 BARABBAS 

He shook his clenched hands aloft, and for the moment, his 
grief-stricken face took upon itself a grandeur and sublimity 
of wrath that was almost superhuman. 

"Who will tell her?" he repeated "Not only I but the 
slain Judas himself will tell her ! his fixed and glassy eyes 
will brand their curse upon her, his stark dead body will lay 
its weight upon her life, his dumb mouth will utter speechless 
oracles of vengeance I Accursed be her name forever ! she 
knew, she knew how weak men are, how blind, how mad, 
how fooled and frenzied by a woman's beauty, she traded on 
her brother's tenderness, and with the witchery of her tongue 
she did beguile even me. Do I excuse mine own great wicked- 
ness? Nay, for my fault was not of her persuasion, and I am 
in my own sight viler than any sinner that breathes, but I 
say she knew, as evil women all do know, the miserable weak- 
ness of mankind, and knowing it she had no mercy ! 'Tis she 
hath brought her brother to his death, for 'twas her subtle 
seeming-true persuasion that did work upon his mind and lead 
him to betray the Master ! Yea, 'twas even thus ! and I will 
tell her so ! I will not shrink ! God grant that every word I 
speak may be as a dagger in her false false heart to stab and 
torture her for ever 1" 

His features were transfigured by strange fervour, a solemn 
passion, austere and menacing, glowed in his anguished eyes, 
and Barabbas, with a wild gesture of entreaty cried aloud, 

" Man, undo thy curse 1 She is but a woman and I loved 
her!" 

Peter looked at him with a distracted dreary smile. 

" Loved her ! Who art thou that speakest of love in these 
days of death ? Lo you, there is no love left in all the world, 
'tis crucified ! Loved her, thou sayest ? Then come and 
see her work, come ! 'tis a brave testimony of true love ! 
come !" 

He beckoned them mysteriously, and began to run before 
them. . . . Melchior stopped him. 

"Where dost thou hasten, Peter?" he said gently, "Thou 
art distraught with sorrow, whither would'st thou have us 
follow thee?" 

" To Gethsemane !" replied Peter with a terrible look " To 
Gethsemane, but not inside the garden ! No no ! for 
there He, the Elect of God, the Messenger of Heaven, last 
night prayed alone, and we, we His disciples, did we pray 
also? Nay we slept!" and he broke into a discordant peal 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 137 

of delirious laughter " We, being men, could find naught 
better to do than sleep ! More senseless than the clods of 
earth on which we lay, we slumbered heavily inert, dead to 
our Master's presence, deaf to His voice ! ' Could ye not 
watch' said He, with soft patience to us, ' with Me one hour ?' 
No, not one hour ! it was not in us to forget ourselves in His 
grief, even for that space of time. We craved for sleep, and 
took it, we could not sacrifice an hour's comfort for His sake ! 
Why, all heaven was wakeful ! the very leaves and blades of 
grass must have found eyes to watch with Him, we, we men 
only, His friends and followers slept ! Oh, 'twas brave of 
us 1 'twas passing tender ! Mark ye thus the value of earth's 
love ! we swore we loved Him, nevertheless we left Him. 
When the guards came suddenly upon us, we all forsook Him 
and fled, I only followed Him, but afar off, always afar off I 
This is what man calls faithfulness !" He paused, trembling 
violently, then resumed in impatience and agitation u Come ! 
not inside Gethsemane, for methinks there are angels there, 
but outside, where Judas waits ! He is patient enough now, 
he will not move from thence till he is carried, will ye bear 
him home ? Home to his father's house ! lay him down at 
his sister's feet while his dead eyes stare beyond all life and 
time out to interminable doom ! Carry him home and lay him 
down ! down before her who did wickedly and wantonly work 
his ruin, and let her weep weep till tears drown every vestige 
of her beauty, and yet she shall never blot from her accursed 
life the memory of the evil she hath done !" 

" Oh, thou unpitying soul !" cried Barabbas desperately 
" What proof hast thou, thou self-convicted false disciple, of 
Judith's wrong-doing ? How hath she merited thy malediction ? 
Thou dost rave ! thy words are wild and without reason ! as 
coward thou did'st deny thy Master, as coward still thou wilt 
shift blame upon a woman ! How can'st thou judge of her r 
being thyself admittedly so vile ?" 
' Peter looked at him in haggard misery. 

" Vile truly am I" he said " And coward I have pro- 
claimed myself. But who art thou ? If I mistake not, thou 
art the people's chosen rescued prisoner, Barabbas is thy 
name. Wert thou not thief and murderer? Art thou not 
vile? Art thou not coward? I reproach thee not for thy 
sins ! Nevertheless I know who roused the baser part of me, 
for every man hath a baser part, and who did change the 
faithful Judas to a traitor. 'Twas subtly done, 'twas even 
12* 



138 BARABBAS 

wise in seeming, so cunningly contrived as to appear most 
truly for the best. Would ye know how ? Then follow me 
as I bid and I will tell all while my heart is full ; for if God 
be merciful to me I shall not live long ; and I must speak the 
truth before I die." 

He was calmer now and his words were more coherent ; 
Melchior exchanged a meaning look with Barabbas, and they 
both silently prepared to follow him. As they began to walk 
forward slowly, a man, tall, and of singularly stately bearing, 
brushed past them in the darkness, and with a murmured word 
of apology and salutation pressed on in evident haste. Peter 
stopped abruptly, looking after him. 

" Yonder goes Joseph of Arimathea" he murmured, strain^ 
ing his eyes through the evening shadows to watch the swiftly 
receding figure u A good man and a just. In secret he also 
was one of the Master's followers. Whither, I wonder, doth 
he bend his steps so late?" 

He seemed troubled and perplexed ; Melchior touched his 
arm to recall his wandering thoughts. He started as from a 
dream and looked round with a vague smile. At that mo- 
ment the moon rose, and lifting up a silver rim above Calvary, 
illumined with sudden ghostly radiance the three crosses on the 
summit of the hill. They were empty. With haggard face 
and piteous eyes, Peter gazed upward and realised that the 
body of his Lord was taken down from the cross and no longer 
visible, and, covering his face in a fold of his mantle, he 
turned away and walked on slowly, while his companions fol- 
lowing him in pitying silence heard the sound of smothered 
bitter weeping. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

AT the foot of the hill they stopped. 

To the left a tuft of palm-trees towered, and under their 
spreading fan-like leaves was a well of clear water, with a 
rough stone bench beside it. The stars were beginning to 
sparkle thickly in the sky, and the climbing moon already lit 
the landscape with almost the clearness of day. 

Peter uncovered his pallid face and looked awfully around 
him. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 139 

" Here," he said in trembling accents, " here the Master 
sat three days agone. Here did He discourse of marvels, of 
the end of this world and of the glory of the world to come, 
and flashing upon us His eyes full of strange light and fire He 
said 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall 
not pass away /' Here, only three days agone !" 

He sighed heavily, and moving feebly to the stone bench, 
sank down upon it, shuddering. 

" Bear with me, sirs, a while" he murmured faintly, 
" There is a mist before my sight, and I must rest ere I can 
walk further. Would ye not think ine stricken old ? yet I 
am young younger by two years than He who died to-day. 
Yea, we were all in the prime of youth and strength, we who 
followed Him and we should by very ardour of our blood 
have had some courage, yet were we as weak and cowardly as 
though we had been dotards in the depth of age !" 

His two companions said nothing. Barabbas, preoccupied 
with thoughts too wretched for utterance, sat down wearily on 
the projecting edge of the well, and btared darkly into the still 
water where a few stars were glitteringly reflected ; Melchior 
stood, leaning slightly against one of the tall slim palm-tree 
stems, his picturesque saffron-hued garments appearing white 
in the early brilliance of the moon, and his dark features 
sternly composed and attentive. To him Peter turned his rest- 
less weary eyes. 

"Thou art of Egypt surely?" he said " Thou hast the 
manner born of the land where men do chronicle the histories 
of life and time ?" 

Melchior met his questioning gaze tranquilly. 

" Trouble not thy mind concerning me, thou forlorn disciple 
of the God !" he answered " Whence I come or whither I go 
is of no more purport than the tossing hither and thither of a 
grain of dust or sand. Henceforward let no man set value on 
himself, since the Divine hath condescended to be humiliated 
even unto death." 

Peter scrutinised him yet more closely. 

" Wert thou also His disciple ?" he asked. 

" As well inquire of me whether I feel the warmth and see 
the glory of the sun !" responded Melchior " Those of my 
race and calling have known of Him these thousand years and 
waited for His coming. Nevertheless, touching these mysteries 
they are not for thy nation, Peter, nor for thy time, where- 
fore I pray thee, if thou desirest to have speech with us on 



140 BARABBAS 

any matter, let it be now, and concern not thy mind with the 
creed of one who is and ever will be a stranger to Judaea." 

He spoke gravely, gently, but with an air that repelled 
inquisitiveness. 

Peter still kept his eyes fixed musingly upon him, then he 
gave vent to another troubled sigh. 

" Be it as thou wilt 1" he said " Yet truly thou dost call to 
mind the tale I have been told of certain kings that came to 
worship the Lord at Bethlehem, the night that He was born. 
'Twas a strange history ! and often have I marvelled how they 
could have known the very day and hour, . . . moreover there 
were wise men from the East" He broke off, then added 
hurriedly " Wert thou perchance one of these ?" 

Melchior shook his head slightly, a faint serious smile on his 
lips. 

" Howbeit," went on Peter with melancholy emotion, " if 
thou dost ever write of this day, I pray thee write truly. For 
methiuks the Jews will coin lies to cleanse this day from out 
the annals of their history." 

" 'Tis thou should'st write, Peter" said Melchior with a 
keen look, "And in thy chronicle confess thine own great 
sin." 

" I am no scribe" replied the disciple sorrowfully, " T have 
never learned the skill of letters. But if I ever wrote, thinkest 
thou I would omit confession of my frailty ? Nay ! I would 
blazon it in words of fire !" He paused with a wild look, then 
resumed more calmly "Sir, this will never be. I am an 
ignorant man, and have no learning save that which He of 
Nazareth taught, and which I was ever the last to comprehend. 
Therefore I say, report my story faithfully and if thou wilt 
be just say this of the dead Judas, that out of vain-glorious 
pride and love he did betray his Master, yea, out of love was 
born the sin, love and not treachery 1" 

Barabbas turned from his dreary contemplation of the deep 
well-water, and fixed his brooding black eyes upon the speaker, 
Melchior still maintained his attitude of grave and serene 
attention. 

" Judith was treacherous" continued Peter " but not so 
Judas. Beautiful as he was and young, his thoughts aspired 
to good, his dreams were for the purification of the world, 
the happiness of all mankind. He loved the Master, ay, 
with a great and passionate love exceeding; all of ours, and he 
believed in His Divinity and worshipped Him. He willingly 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 141 

resigned home, country and kindred to follow Him, and now, 
having sinned against Him, he hath given his life as penalty. 
Can mortal man do more ? Grod knoweth !" 

He stopped again, his breath came in a short gasping sigh. 

" When we entered Jerusalem a week agone" lie continued 
slowly, " Judas had been long absent from his father's house, 
and long estranged from his one sister whom he loved. Ye 
know the manner of our coming to the city? how the multi- 
tude rushed forth to meet and greet Jesus of Nazareth, and 
called Him ' King,' shouting ' Hosannas' and strewing His 
path with flowers and branches of the palm ? One who watched 
the crowd pass by said unto me ' Why do ye not check this 
folly? Think ye the priests will tamely bear the entrance of 
this Galilean Prophet as a king? Nay verily they will slay 
him as a traitor 1' And, when I told these words to Judas, he 
smiled right joyously, saying, ' What need we care for priestly 
malice ? Truly our Master is a King ! the King of Heaven, 
the King of earth ! and all the powers of hell itself shall not 
prevail against Him !' Seeing his faith and love were such, I 
said no more, though truly my heart misgave me." 

His eyes dwelt on the ground with an unseeing dreary pain. 

" That night, that very night on which we entered Jerusalem, 
Judas went forth to see his sister. Oft had he spoken of her 
fairness, of the wonder of her beauty, which, he would swear, 
was gorgeous as the radiance of roses in the sun. He meant 
to bring her to the Master's feet, to tell her of His teachings, 
His miracles, His wondrous tenderness and love for all that 
were in sickness or in sorrow. Light-hearted as a boy, he left 
us on this errand, but when he returned to us again, he was 
no more the same. Sitting apart from us gloomy and absorbed 
in thought, oft times I saw him gazing at our Lord with a 
strange grief and yearning in his eyes as though he sought to 
pierce the depth of some great mystery. The days went on, 
till two evenings before we shared with our Master the supper 
of the Passover. Then Judas came to me, and taking me 
aside, unburdened all his secret mind." 

Here Peter newly smitten by remorse and despair gave an 
eloquent gesture half of wrath, half of suffering. 

"Heaven be my witness!" he cried " that when I heard 
his plan I thought it would be well ! I thought that all the 
world would see we had not worshipped the Divine Man in 
vaiu 1 Pride in His glory, love for His Name, and ignorance 
of destiny, these were the sins of Judas Iscariot, but there 



142 BAR ABB AS 

was no malice in him, that I swear 1 The wretched youth'* 
ambition for his Master was his ruin but of us separate twain 
I was the faithless one ! Judas, even in his fault, was never- 
theless faithful ! Dost thou hear me, thou silent dreamer out 
of Egypt ?" and he flashed a wild glance at the quiet Melchior ; 
" Dost thou hear? Write it if thou wilt on granite tablets in 
thy mystic land of the moon, for I will have it known ! 
Judas was faithful, I say ! and he loved the Lord better than 
any one of us all !" 

" I hear thy words, Peter" said Melchior gently " and I 
shall remember their purport." 

Calmed by the soft reply, the unhappy disciple recovered in 
part his self-possession, and went on with the coherent sequence 
of his narrative. 

" Yea, in all things, Judas was faithful. When he came 
first to confide in me, he told me that the chief priests and 
elders of the city were full of wrath and fear at the sway our 
Master had obtained over the minds of the people, and that 
they sought some excuse to kill Him. ' Then let us away,' 
said I. ' Let us return unto the mountains, and the shores of 
Galilee, where our beloved Lord can teach His followers, un- 
molested, and at liberty.' ' Nay !' returned Judas in a voice 
of triumph ' Knowest thou not that if His words be true, our 
Lord can never die? Wherefore, why should we be driven 
from the city as though we were affrighted concerning His 
safety ? Hear first what my sister Judith saith.' And I did 
hear." 

Barabbas looked up, his eyes gleaming with anxiety and 
foreboding. Peter met his gaze mournfully. 

" She Judith so I learned, had welcomed her errant 
brother with such tenderness as moved his heart. She re- 
proached him not at all, but listened with a patient interest to 
the story of his wanderings. Then she most gently said she 
doubted not the truth of the Divinity dwelling within the 
famous ' Nazarene,' but surely, she argued, it were not un- 
reasonable to ask that such Divinity be proved? Whereat 
Judas, troubled in spirit, replied ' Verily it hath been proved 
oftentimes by many marvellous miracles. 1 Not in Jerusalem, 
not to the priests and rulers' answered Judith. ' For they 
believe nothing of thy Prophet of Galilee, save that He is a 
false blasphemer, a malcontent and traitor. Nevertheless if He 
be of supreme omnipotence as thou dost say. Judas, 'tis thou 
oan'st make Him seize at once the mastery of the world, and 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 143 

thus how grandly thou wilt prove thy love !' Judas, entranced 
at the boldness of this thought, bade her tell him how such 
glory for his Lord might speedily be won. ' Never was task 
more easy' she replied ' Resign Him to the law, betray 
Him to the priests ! Then will He avow His godhead with all 
the majesty of Heaven! We shall acclaim Him as the true 
Messiah, and not we alone, but every nation of the earth 
must worship Him ! For bethink thee, dearest brother, if Ha 
be indeed Divine, He cannot be slain by any earthly foe/ 
[This," continued Peter, " is what Judas told me of his sister 'a 
word. And, at the time, it seemed both wise and just. For 
why should our great Lord suffer poverty and pain when em- 
pires could be His ? Why should He wander homeless through 
the world, when all the palaces of earth should open to His 
coming? So Judas thought, and I thought with him, for 
the Master being in all things glorious, we saw no wrong in 
striving to make His glory manifest." 

" Nature's symbols are hard to read, Peter," said Melchior 
suddenly " And of a truth thou can'st not comprehend their 
mystic lettering! What glory has ever yet been rendered 
' manifest' except through suffering ? How could'st thou think 
to fit the tawdry splendours of earthly kingdoms to the em- 
bodied Spirit of the Divine? What throned and jewelled 
potentate hath ever lifted from the world a portion of its weight 
of sin ? What name applauded by the people, hath ever yet 
bestowed salvation on a living soul ? Lo, the very prophets of 
thy race have prophesied to thee in vain, and to thy scared 
wits the oldest oracles lack meaning ! Did not thy Master tell 
thee of His fate, and could'st thou not believe even Him?" 

Peter grew very pale, and his head drooped on his breast. 

" Yea, He did tell me" he answered sorrowfully " And I 
rebuked Him ! I ! I said ' This shall not be.' And with 
; all the wrath of a wronged King He turned upon me saying 
' Get thee behind Me, Satan I for thou savoiirest not the 
things that be of God, but the things that be of men.' And 
I fell back from Him affrighted, and was sore at heart all 
day!" 

Melchior left his position by the palm-tree, and advancing, 
laid one hand on the disciple's arm. 

" And thou could'st not realise, weak soul, these ' things that 
be of God' ?" he queried gravely " Thou could'st not detach 
thy thoughts from earth? earth's paltry power and foolish 
flaunting ostentation ? Alas for thee and those that take thee 



144 BARABBAS 

for a guide ! for verily this fatal clinging of thy soul to things 
temporal shall warp thy way for ever and taiut thy mis- 
sion !" 

Peter rose from his seat gazing at the speaker in wonder and 
dread. The moonlight fell on both their faces ; Melchior's 
was calm, stern and resolved, Peter's expressed the deepest 
agitation. 

" In God's name who art thou ?" he asked apprehensively^- 
*' By whose authority dost thou prophesy concerning me ?" 

Melchior answered not. 

" None shall take me for guide !" went on Peter more ex- 
citedly " For do I not confess myself a faulty man and spirit- 
less? Moreover I am subject to temptations" and he shud- 
dered "temptations many and grievous. Lo, the Master 
knew this of me, for last night only last night He said unto 
me ' Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have thee that he 
may sift thee even as wheat. But 1 have prayed for thee that 
thy faith fail not 1 " 

" And neither shall it fail !" interrupted Melchior solemnly 
" By faith alone the fabric raised upon thy name shall live 1 
Nevertheless thy cowardice and fears shall live on also, and thy 
lie shall be the seed from whence shall grow harvests of error ! 
The law of compensation weighs on thee even as on every man, 
and thy one negation, Petrus, shall be the cause of many !" 

Peter looked at the dark inscrutable countenance that con- 
fronted him, and lifted his hands as though to ward off some 
menacing destiny. He trembled violently. 

" Strange prophet, thou dost fill my soul with terrors !" he 
faltered " What have I to do with those that shall come after 
me ? Surely when these days are remembered, so will my sin 
be known and evermore accursed, and who would raise a 
fabric, as thou sayest, on the memory of a lie ? Nay, nay ! 
prophesy if thou wilt, good or evil, an' thou must needs pro-j 
phesy but not here not in this place where the Master sat- 
BO lately. It is as though He heard us there is something of 
His presence in the air !" 

He cast a timorous glance up and down, and then began to 
walk forward feebly yet hurriedly. They all three paced along 
the moonlit road, Barabbas casting many a dubious side-look 
at the worn and troubled face of the disciple. 

"Strange that this man could have denied his Master!" he 
thought with passionate scorn " And I, base sinner as I am. 
having but seen that Master once, would willingly have died 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 145 

for Him had it been possible ! If all His followers are of such 
coward stuff as this, surely the history of this day, if left to 
them, will be but a perverted chronicle !" 

Meanwhile, after a heavy pause, Peter resumed his inter- 
rupted narrative. 

" When Judas told me of his sister's words, methought I 
saw new light break in upon our lives. The world would be a 
paradise, all men would be united in love and brotherhood if 
once the God on earth were openly revealed. Yet out of fear 
I hesitated to pronounce a judgment; and seeing this, Judas 
persuaded me to go with him to Judith and hear her speak 
upon the matter. So, ho said, I should be better skilled to 
reason without haste or prejudice." 

Here he threw up his hands with a wild gesture. 

" Would I had never seen her !" he cried " In what a fair 
disguise the fiend did come to tempt my soul ! I took her for 
an angel of good counsel ! her beauty, her mild voice, her sweet 
persuasions, her seeming-wise suggestions, oh, they made havoc 
of my better thoughts ! She stood before us in her father's 
garden, clothed softly in pure white, a very spirit of gentleness 
and quietude, speaking full soberly and with most excellent 
justice as I deemed. ' Truly I doubt not that this Lord of 
thine is very God,' she said ' Nevertheless as the rulers of the 
city believe Him naught but human perjurer and traitor, ye 
who love Him should compel Him to declare His glory. For 
if He be not, as He saith, Divine, ye do wrong to follow a 
deceiver. Surely this thing is plain ? If He be God, we all 
will worship Him ; if He be man only, why then ye are but 
blindly led astray and made as fools by trickery.' Thus did 
she speak, and I believed her, her words seemed full of truth 
and justice, she was right, I said, our Master was Divine, 
and He should prove it 1 Smiling, she bowed her head and 
left us, and Judas, turning on me cried ' Now, Simon 
Peter, what thinkest thou ?' And I, answering said, ' Do as 
it seemeth well unto thee, Judas ! Our Lord is Lord of the 
whole heaven and earth, and none can injure Him or take away 
His glory !' " 

Pausing again he looked upward with a sad wild anguish, 
the pale moonbeams falling coldly on his tear-worn rugged 
countenance. 

" What counsel could I give !" he exclaimed, as though he 
were defending himself to some unseen listener in the starry 
ekies " What did I know ? I had no key to heaven's mys- 
a k 13 



146 BARABBAS 

teries ! A poor unlearned fisherman, casting my nets by Gal. 
ilee was I, when He, the Marvellous One, came suddenly upon 
me, and with a lightning-glance of power said 'Follow Me /' 
Andrew, my brother, was with me, and he will testify of this, 
that we were ignorant and stricken by poverty, and all we 
knew and felt was, that this Jesus of Nazareth must be obeyed, 
that we were bound by some mysterious influence to follow 
where He led, that home and kindred were as nought to us, 
compared with one smile, one searching look from Him ! In 
beauty, in majesty, in high command a very King He seemed ; 
why, why should not the world have known it 1 It seemed 
but natural, it seemed but just, and last night, when Judas 
rose from supper and went out, I knew whither he had gone ! 
I knew I knew!" He shuddered and groaned, then with 
a savage gesture cried " A curse on woman ! Through her 
came sin and death ! through her is hell created ! through 
her is now betrayed the Holy One of God ! Accursed may 
she be for ever ! and cursed be all men who love her perish- 
able beauty, and trust her treacherous soul I" 

His white face became contorted with fury ; Melchior sur- 
veyed him with calm compassion. 

" Thy curses are in vain, Petrus," he said " They do but 
sound on deaf and empty air. He who curses woman or de- 
spises her, must henceforth be himself despised and accursed. 
For now by woman's purity is the whole world redeemed, 
by woman's tenderness and patience the cords of everlasting 
love are tied between this earth and highest heaven ! Truly 
the language of symbols is hid from thee, if thou can'st curse 
woman, remembering that of woman thy Master was born into 
the world ! Were there a million treacherous women meriting 
thy curse, it matters little, for from henceforward Womanhood 
is rendered sacred in the sight of the Eternal, through Her 
whom now we call the Mother of the ' Nazarene' !" 

He paused, then added, " Moreover thou can'st not fasten 
the betrayal of thy Lord on Judith Iscariot. Partly she was 
to blame, yet she was but a tool in the hands of the true 
arch-traitor. If ye would track treachery home to its very 
source, search for it where it hath its chief abiding-place, in 
the dens of priestcraft and tyranny, among the seeming holy, 
the seeming sanctified, they with whom lies are part of sacred 
office!" 

Barabbas started. 

"'Twaa Caiaphas!" he cried excitedly " Tell me such 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 147 

news will be some comfort to my soul 'twas Caiaphas who 
first did scheme this murder of the Christ ?" 

Melchior looked at him steadily. 

"Even so" he said " 'Twas Caiaphas. What would'st 
thou ? 'Tis ever and 'twill ever be a self-professing Priest of 
the Divine who crucifies Divinity 1" 



CHAPTER XXIIL^. 

As he spoko a faint wind stirred the shrubs and trees on 
either side of the road like an assenting sigh from some wan- 
dering spirit. The disciple Peter stared upon him in troubled 
and vague amazement. 

" How could it be Caiaphas ?" he asked " True it is that 
Judas went to Caiaphas, but not till he had himself resolved 
upon the deed he meant to do." 

" Thou knowest not each private detail of this history, 
Petrus" answered Melchior, " And as thou knowest not all, 
neither will they who come after thee ever know. Hast thou 
not heard of love existing between man and woman, or if not 
love, a passion passing by that name, which hath made many 
strange annals in history ? Even such passion has there been 
'twixt haughty Caiaphas and wanton Judith, nay, thou mis- 
guided Barabbas, wince not nor groan 'tis true ! To her the 
sensual priest confided all his plan ; he trained her in the part 
she had to play, by his command and in his very words she 
did persuade and tempt her credulous brother, yea, even with 
a seeming excellent purpose in the work, to bring back Judas 
to his home and the religion of his fathers. Moreover for her 
ready help and willingness she did receive much gold from 
Caiaphas, and jewels and soft raiment, things that such women 
love far more than virtue. ' Trap me the Nazarene, fair 
Judith,' he said, ' with such discretion and wise subtilty that 
it shall seem not my work, but thy brother's act of conscience 
and repentance to his faith and people, and I will give thee 
whatsoever most thy heart desires.' And well did she obey 
him, as why should she not ? seeing he long hath been her 
lover." 

Barabbas shrank back trembling. Every instinct in him 



143 B ARABS AS 

told him it was the truth he heard, yet he could not bear to 
have it thus pitilessly thrust upon him. Meanwhile the un- 
happy Simon Peter wrung his hands together in despera- 
tion. 

" Nay, who could guess so deep and dastardly a plot 1" he 
cried " And if thou knewest it, thou fateful stranger, and 
wert in Jerusalem, why not have given us warning?" 

"Of what profit would have been my words?" demanded 
Melchior with sudden scorn " Ye would not believe the say- 
ings of your Master, how then should yc believe me ? Ye 
were and are, the very emblems of mankind, self-seeking, doubt- 
ing and timorous, and gloze it over as ye will, ye were all un- 
faithful and afraid ! As for me, 'tis not my creed to strive 
and turn the course of destiny. I say the priests have killed 
the Christ, and the great murder is not yet finished. For they 
will kill him spiritually a million times again ere earth shall 
fully comprehend the glory of His message ! Ay ! through 
the vista of a thousand coming years and more I see His silent 
patient Figure stretched upon the Cross, and ever the priests 
surround Him, driving in the nails !" He paused, and his 
dark eyes flashed with a strange fierce passion, then he con- 
tinued quietly " 'Tis so ordained. Lo, yonder are the shad- 
ows of Gethsemane, if thou hast aught of import more to 
say of Judas, it were well to speak it here and now ere 
we go further." 

Instinctively he lowered his voice, and with equal instinct- 
iveness, all three men drew closer together, the moonlight 
casting lengthened reflections of their draped figures on a 
smooth piece of sun-dried turf which sloped in undulating 
lines down towards a thicket of olive-trees glimmering silver- 
grey in the near distance. Peter trembled as with icy cold 
and looked timorously backward over his shoulder with the 
manner of one who expects to see some awful presence close 
behind him. 

" Yea, out of justice to the dead, out of pure justice" 
he muttered faintly " ye should know all of Judas that my 
faltering tongue can tell. For of a truth his end is horrible ! 
'Twas a brave youth, comely and bold, and warm and passion- 
ate, and to die thus alone down there in the darkness I" ... 
Clenching his fists hard, he tried to control his nervous shud- 
dering, and went on, speaking in low troubled tones, " I said 
he went to Caiaphas. This was two nights before our last 
supper with the Lord. He told me all. Caiaphas feigned both 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 149 

anger and indifference. ' We have no fear of thy mad fanatic 
out of Galilee' he said ' but if thy conscience do reproach 
thee, Judas, as well it may, for thy desertion of the law and 
*,he faith of thine own people, we will not discourage or reject 
thy service. Yet think not thou can'st arrogantly place the 
Sanhedrim under any personal obligation for thine offered aid, 
the priests elect may take no favours from one who hath 
perversely deserted the holy rites of God, and hath forsaken 
'the following of his fathers. Understand well, we cannot owe 
thee gratitude, for thou hast severed thyself wilfully from us 
and hast despised our high authority. Wherefore if now thou 
art prepared to render up the Man of Galilee, name thine own 
payment.' Now Judas had no thought of this, and being 
sorely grieved, refused, and went away, stricken at heart. And 
to his sister he declared all, and said ' I will not sell the Lord 
into His glory for base coin.' But she made light of the mat- 
ter and mocked at his scruples. ' Thou silly soul, thou dost not 
sell thy Lord !' she said ' Thou dost merely enter into a legal 
form of contract, which concerns thee little. 'Tis the Phari- 
saical rule of honour not to accept unpaid service from one 
who doth openly reject the faith. Take what they offer thee, 
can'st thou not use it for the sick and poor? Remember thou 
art serving thy Master, thou dost not 'sell' or otherwise 
betray Him. Thy work prepares Him to avow His glory ! 
think what a marvel thou wilt thus reveal to all the world ! 
Hesitate not therefore for a mere scribe's formula.' Then 
Judas, thus persuaded, went again to Caiaphas saying ' Truly 
ye have your laws with which I have naught in common, yet if 
it must be so, what will ye give me if I betray Him unto you f 
And straightway they counted from the treasury thirty pieces 
of silver, which Judas took unwillingly. Alas, alas 1 If he 
had only known ! Surely this very money was as a blind for 
Caiaphas, a seeming legal proof that he was innocent of 
treachery, but that in custom of the law, he paid the volun- 
tary, selt'-convicted traitor. Who could excuse Caiaphas of 
cruelty ? of malice ? of iutent to murder ? Caiaphas was 
not paid ! All things conspired to fix the blame on Judas, 
to make him bear alone that awful weight of crime, which 
heavier than all burdens of despair hath sunk him now within 
the depths of hell." 

He pressed his hands upon his forehead for a moment and 
was silent. Barabbas watched him gloomily, absorbed in his 
every gesture, his every word, Melchior's eyes were cast down, 
13* 



150 BARABBAS 

and a stern expression shadowed his features, notwithstanding 
that every incident of the story seemed known to him. 

"The end came quickly" proceeded the disciple, after a 
sorrowful pause "All the misery and fury and despair fell 
upon us in one blow. The haste and anger of the law swept 
down upon us like a storm which we had neither force nor 
valour to resist. At the entrance to the garden of Gethsemane, 
Judas waited, with glare of torches and armed men, and as / 
the Lord came forth from out of the shadows of the trees, he 
went to meet Him. Pale with expected triumph, love and 
fear, he cried ' Hail, Master /' and kissed Him. And such a 
silence fell upon us all, that methought the very earth had 
stopped its course, and that all the stars were listening. Now, 
thought I, will the glory of the God expand ! and even as we 
saw Him transfigured on the mountain, so will He shine in 
splendour, mighty and terrible, and overwhelm His enemies as 
with fire I But He, the Master, changed not in aught nor 
spoke ; in stillness and in patience He fixed His eyes on Judas 
for a while then in low tones He said ' Friend, wherefore 
art thou come ? Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a ki'ss ?' 
And Judas with a cry of anguish, fell back from Him 
affrighted, and clutched at my garments, whispering ' Surely 
I have sinned ! or else He hath deceived us !' Meanwhile 
the armed guards stood mute as slaves, not offering to touch 
the Lord, till He addressing them, said ' Whom seek ye ?' 
Then they, abashed, did answer ' Jesus of Nazareth.' 
Whereupon the Master looked upon them straightly, saying 
* / am He. 1 Then, as though smitten by thunder at these 
words, they went backward and fell to the ground. And I, 
foolishly, thought the hour we waited for had come, for never 
did such splendour, such dignity and power appear in mortal 
frame as at that moment glorified our Lord ! Again He spoke 
unto the guard, saying ' Whom seek ye T And again they 
answered trembling 'Jesus of Nazareth. 1 Then said He 
tranquilly ' / have told ye that I am He. If therefore ye 
teek Me, let these go their way? And turning upon us slowly 
He waved His hand in parting, a kingly sign of proud and 
calm dismissal. Staring upon Him, as though He were a 
vision, we retreated from His path, while He did royally 
advance and render Himself up to those who sought Him. 
And these, in part recovered from their fear, laid hold on Him 
and led Him away. We, we, His disciples gazed after Him 
a while, then gazing on each other, raved and wept. De- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDF 151 

eeived ! Deceived !' we cried ' He is not God but man !' 
And then we fled, each on our separate ways, and only I, 
moved by desire to see the end, followed the Master afar off, 
even unto the very house of Caiaphas." 

Here Peter stopped, overcome by agitation. Tears sprung 
to his eyes and choked his voice, but presently mastering him- 
self with an effort he said hoarsely, and in ashamed accents, 

" There I did deny him ! I confess it, I denied Him. 
When the chattering slaves and servants of the high-priest 
declared I was His disciple, I swore, and said ' I know not the 
man !' And after all 'twas true, 'twas true ! I knew not 
the 'man,' for I had known, or thought that I had known, 
the God !" 

Melchior raised his piercing dark eyes and studied him 
closely. 

" Thus dost thou play the sophist I" he said with chill dis- 
dain " Thus wilt thou bandy reasons and excuses for thine 
own sins and follies I Weak, cowardly, and moved by the 
desire of temporal shows, thou wilt invent pardon for thine 
own blindness thus for ever ! Thou art the perfect emblem 
of thy future fame ! If thou had'st truly known the God, 
thou could' st not have denied Him, but if thou wilt speak 
truth, Petrus, thou never hast believed in Him, save as a 
possible earthly King, who might in time possess Jerusalem. 
To that hope thou did'st cling, and of things heavenly thou 
had'st no comprehension. To possess the earth has ever been 
thy dream, maybe thou wilt possess it, thou and thy followers 
after thee, but Heaven is far distant from thy ken !" Peter's 
face flushed, and his eyes glittered with something like anger. 

" Thou dost judge me harshly, stranger" he said. " Never- 
theless perchance thou hast some justice in thy words. Yet 
surely 'tis not unnatural to look for glory from what is glori- 
ous? If God be God, why should He not declare Himself? 
if He be ruler of the earth why should not His way be abso- 
lute and visible?" 

" Ha doth declare Himself His way is absolute and visi- 
ble !" said Melchior, u But thou art not His medium, Petrus ! 
nor doth He stoop from highest Heaven to learn earth's laws 
from thee." 

Peter was silent. Barabbaa now looked at him with renewed 
curiosity, he was beginning to find out the singular and com- 
plex character of the man. Cowardice and dignity, terror and 
anger, remorse and pride all struggled together in his nature, 



152 BARABBAS 

and even the untutored Barabbas could see that from thig 
timorous disciple anything in the way of shiftiness or subter- 
fuge might be expected, since he was capable of accusing and 
excusing himself of sin at one and the same time. 

" Say what thou wilt" he resumed, with a touch of defiance 
in his manner " 'twas the chagrin and the bitter disappoint- 
ment of my soul that caused me to deny the ' Man.' I was 
aflame with eagerness to hail the God ! 'twould have been 
easy for Him to declare His majesty, and yet, before the min- 
ions of the law He held His peace ! His silence and His 
patience maddened me ! and when He passed out with the 
guard and looked at me, I wept, not only for my own base- 
ness, but for sheer wretchedness at His refusal to reveal Him- 
self to men. Meanwhile, as He was led away to Pontius 
Pilate, Judas, furious with despair, rushed into the presence 
of Caiaphas, and there before him and other of the priests and 
elders cried aloud ' / have sinned, in that I have betrayed 
the innocent blood! 1 And they, jeering at him, laughed 
among themselves, and answered him saying ' What is that 
to us ? See thou to that /' Whereat he flung down all the 
silver they had given him on the floor before them and de- 
parted, and as he ran from out the palace like a man dis- 
traught, I met and stopped him. 'Judas, Judas, whither 
goest thou ?' I cried. He beat me off. ' Home ! Home !' 
he shrieked at me ' Home to her ! to the one sister whom 
I loved, who did persuade my soul to this night's treachery 1 
Let me pass ! for I must curse her ere I die ! her spirit 
needs must follow mine to yonder beckoning Doom !' And 
with a frightful force he tore himself from out my grasp, and 
like a drifting phantom on the wind, was gone !" 

Here Peter raised his hands with an eloquent gesture, as 
though he again saw the vanishing form of the despairing 
man. 

" All through last night," he continued in hushed accents 
" I sought for him in vain. Round and about Iscariot's house 
I wandered aimlessly, I saw none of whom I dared ask news 
of him, the fatal garden where together we had speech with 
Judith, was silent and deserted. Through many streets of the 
city, and along the road to Bethany I paced wearily, until at 
last, some fateful spirit turned my steps towards Gethsemane. 
And there, there at last I found him 1" 

He paused, then suddenly began to walk rapidly. 

" Come !" he said looking backward at Melchior and Barab- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 153 

bas " Come ! The night advances, and he hath passed 
already many lonely hours ! And not long since the Master 
said ' Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay 
down his life for his friends.' Verily Judas hath laid down 
his life and look you, to die thus in the full prime of youth, 
strangled even as a dog that hath run wild, is horrible ! will't 
not suffice ? 'Twere hard that Judas should be evermore ac- 
cursed, seeing that for his folly he hath paid the utmost penalty, 
and is, by his own hand, dead !" 

" And thou livest !" said Melchior with a cold smile " Thou 
sayest well, Petrus ; 'twere hard that Judas should be ever- 
more accursed and thou adjudged a true apostle ! Yet such 
things happen for the world loves contraries and falsifications 
of history, and while perchance it takes a month to spread a 
lie, it takes a hundred centuries to prove a truth !" 

Peter answered not he was pressing on with increasing 
speed and agitation. All at once he halted, the road made 
an abrupt slope towards a mass of dense foliage faintly grey in 
the light of the moon. 

" Hush ! hush !" he whispered " He is dead, but there 
is a strange expression in his eyes, he looks as if he heard. 
One cannot tell, the dead my hear for all we know ! Tread 
gently, yonder is the garden of Gethsernane, but he is not 
within it. He stays outside, almost upon the very spot 
where he did give the Master up to death, meaning to give 
Him glory ! Come ! we will persuade him to depart with us, 
betwixt us three he shall be gently carried home, perchance 
his sister Judith marvels at his absence, and waits for his 
return 1 How she will smile upon him when she sees the 
manner of his coming I" 

And he began to walk forward on tiptoe. Barabbas grew 
deadly .pale and caught Melchior by the arm. The rugged 
figure of the disciple went on before them like a dark flutter- 
ing shadow, and presently turned aside from the road towards 
a turfy hollow where a group of ancient olive-trees stretched 
out their gaunt black branches like spectral arms uplifted to 
warn intruders back. Pausing at this gloomily frondaged 
portal, Peter beckoned his companions with a solemn gesture, 
then, stooping under the boughs he passed and disappeared. 
Hushing their footsteps and rendered silent by the sense of 
awe, Melchior and Barabbas followed. The hanging foliage 
drooped over them heavily, and seemed to draw them in and 
close them out of sight, and although there was scarcely any 



154 BARABBAS 

wind to move the air, the thick leaves rustled mysteriously 
like ghostly voices whispering of some awful secret known to 
them alone the secret of a tortured soul's remorse, the in- 
describable horror of a sinner's death, self-sought iu the deeper 
silence of their sylvan shadows. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

MEANWHILE, the city of Jerusalem was pleasantly astir. 
Lights twinkled from the windows of every house, and from 
many an open door and flower-filled garden came the sounds 
of music and dancing. Those who had been well-nigh dead 
with fear at the earthquake and the unnatural darkness of the 
day, were now rejoicing at the safety of themselves and their 
relations. No more cause for apprehension remained ; the 
night was cloudlessly beautiful, and brilliant with the tranquil 
glory of the nearly full moon, and joyous parties of friends 
assembled together without ceremony to join in merriment and 
mutual congratulation. The scene on Calvary was the one 
chief topic of conversation, every tongue discoursed eloquently 
upon the heroic death of the " Nazarene." All agreed that 
never was so beautiful a Being seen in mortal mould, or one 
more brave, or royal of aspect, nevertheless it was also the 
^ general opinion that it was well He was dead. There was no 
doubt but that He would have been dangerous, He advanced 
Himself as a reformer, and His teachings were decidedly set 
against both the realm's priestcraft and policy. Moreover it 
was evident that He possessed some strange interior power, 
He had genius too, that strong and rare quality which draws 
after it all the lesser and weaker spirits of men, it was well 
and wise that He was crucified 1 People who had travelled as 
far as Greece and Rome shook their heads and spoke pro- 
foundly of " troublesome philosophers," they who insisted on 
truth as a leading principle of life, and objected to shams. 

" This Galilean was one of their kind" said a meditative 
old scribe, standing at his house-door to chat with a passing 
acquaintance, " Save that He spoke of a future life and an 
eternal world, He could say no better and no more than they. 
Surely there are stories enough of Socrates to fill one's mouth, 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 155 

he was a man for truth also, and was forever thus upsetting 
laws, wherefore they killed him. But he was old, and the 
' Nazarene' was young, and death in youth is somewhat 
piteous. All the same 'tis better so, for look you, He ran 
wild with prophecy on life eternal. Heaven defend us all say 
1, from any other world save this one ! this is enough for any 
man and were there yet another to inherit, 'tis certain we are 
not fitted for it, we die, and there's an end, no man ever rose 
from the dead." 

" Hast thou heard it said" suggested his friend hesita- 
tingly, " that this same ' Nazarene' declared that He would rise 
again ?" 

The old scribe smiled contemptuously. 

" I have heard many things" he answered, " but because 
1 hear, I am not compelled to believe. And of all the follies 
ever spoken this is the greatest. No doubt the Galilean's fol- 
lowers would steal His body if they could, and swear He had 
arisen from the dead, but the high-priest Caiaphas has had 
a warning, and he will guard against deception. Trouble not 
thyself with such rumours, a dead man, even a prophet of 
God, is dead for ever." 

And he went in and shut his door, leaving his acquaintance 
to go his way homeward, which that personage did somewhat 
slowly and thoughtfully. 

All the streets of the city were bathed in a silver-clear 
shower of moonbeams, the air was balmy and scented with 
the fragrance of roses and orange-boughs, groups of youths 
and maidens sauntered here and there in the cool of the vari- 
ous gardens, laughing, chatting, and now and then lifting up 
their well-attuned voices in strophes of choral song. Jerusa- 
lem basked in the soft radiance of the Eastern night like a 
fairy city of pleasure, and there was no sign among her joyous 
people to show that the Redeemer of the world had died for 
the world's sake that day. 

In marked contrast to the animation prevailing in other 
streets and courts, a great stillness surrounded the house of 
Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. The fountain in the 
outer colonnade alone made music to itself as it tossed up its 
delicate dust-like spray that fell tinkling back again into the 
marble basin, no wandering breeze ruffled the petals of the 
white roses that clung like little bunches of crumpled silk to 
the dark walls, even the thirsty and monotonous chirp-chirp- 
iug of the locusts had ceased. Now and then a servant 



156 BARABBAS 

crossed the court on some errand, with noiseless feet, and one 
Roman soldier on guard paced slowly to and fro, his sandals 
making scarcely any sound as he measured his stately march 
forward a dozen lengths or so, then backward, then forward 
again, the drooping pennon on his lifted lance throwing a float- 
ing snake-like shadow behind him as he moved. Pilate, since 
the morning, had been seriously indisposed, and all his retinue 
were more or less uneasy. Quiet had been enforced upon the 
household by its haughty and resolute mistress, and now that 
night had fallen the deep hush seemed likely to be unbroken 
till a new day should dawn. So that when a loud and urgent 
knocking was heard at the outmost gate, the porter who opened 
it was almost speechless with indignation and amazement. 

" I prithee cease thy rude clamour" he said, after he had 
looked out of his loophole of observation and seen that the 
would-be intruder was a man of distinguished appearance and 
attire " Thou can'st not enter here with all thy knocking, 
the governor is ill and sees no man." 

" Nevertheless I must have speech with him," responded the 
visitor " I do beseech thee, friend, delay me not my matter 



" I tell thee 'tis not possible" said the porter " Would'st 
have us lose our heads for disobeying orders ? Or crucified 
even as the ' Nazarene' ?" 

" My business doth concern the ' Nazarene' " was the 
reply, given hurriedly and with evident emotion " Tell this 
to one in authority ; and say that 'tis Joseph of Arimathea who 
waits without." 

At these words the porter ceased arguing, and disappeared 
across the court into the house. Presently he returned, accom- 
panied by a tall slave, wearing a silver chain of office. 

"Worthy Counsellor" said the retainer, respectfully sa- 
luting the Ariraathean, " Thou can'st not at this late hour 
have speech with Pilate, who hath been sorely overwrought by 
the harassments of the day, but I am commanded by the lady 
Justitia to say that she will receive thee willingly if indeed thy 
matter is of the Man of Nazareth." 

" It is it is" answered Joseph eagerly " I do entreat 
thee, bring me to thy lady straight, for every moment lost doth 
hinder the fulfilment of mine errand." 

The slave said no more, but signed to the porter to unbar the 
gate with as little noise as possible. Then he led the way across 
the court, gave a word of explanation to the soldier on guard, 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDF 157 

and finally escorted the visitor into an arched vestibule adorned 
with flowering plants, and cooled by sparkling jets of water 
that ran from carved lions' mouths into a deep basin of yellow 
marble. Here the slave disappeared leaving the Arimathean 
alone. He paced up and down with some impatience, full of 
his own burning thoughts that chafed at every fresh delay, and 
he was violently startled, when a grave mellow voice said '\>se 
to him, 

" What of the Christ ? Have ye indeed slain Him ?" 

" Lady !" . . . he stammered, and turned to confront the 
wife of Pilate, who had silently entered the vestibule behind 
him. For a moment he could find no words wherewith to 
answer her, the stedfastness of her dark eyes troubled him. 
She was beautiful in a grand and stately way, her resolute 
features and brooding brows expressed more fierceness than 
tenderness, and yet her lips quivered with some deeply sup- 
pressed emotion as she spoke again and said 

" Surely thou art a Jew, and hast had thy share in this 
murder ?" 

With the shock of this bitterly pronounced accusation he 
recovered his self-possession. 

" Noble Justitia, I beseech thee in the name of God number 
me not with the evil ones of this misguided nation !" he an- 
swered passionately " Could I have saved the heaven-born 
' Nazarene,' surely I would have given my own life willingly 1 
For I have gathered profit from His holy doctrine, and am His 
sworn disciple, though secretly, for fear of the harshness of 
mine own people, who would cast me out from their midst, if 
they knew the change wrought within my soul. Moreover I 
am a man who hath studied the sayings of the prophets, not 
lightly but with sober judgment, and do accept all the things 
that now have chanced to us as fulfilment of the word of God. 
And most heartily do I render thanks unto the Most High that 
He hath in His great mercy, permitted me to see with mortal 
eyes His chosen true Messiah !" 

" Thou dost then freely acknowledge Him as One Divine ?" 
said Justitia fixing a searching look upon him. 

" Most surely, lady ! If ever any god did dwell on earth, 'twas 
He." 

"Then He lives yet?" 

Joseph looked perplexed and troubled. 

" Nay ! He is dead. Hath He not been crucified ?" 

" Doth a god die ?" asked Justitia, her sombre eyes glittet- 
H 



158 BARABBAS 

ing strangely " What power have mortal tortures on immor- 
tal spirit? Summon thy reason and think calmly art sure 
that He is dead ?" 

Her words and manner were so solemn and impressive that 
the Arimathean counsellor was for a moment bewildered and 
amazed, and knew not what to say. Then, after a doubtful 
pause he answered, 

" Lady, as far as human eye and sense can judge, life hath 
verily departed from Him. Hia body hath been taken down 
from off the Cross, and for the reason that they found Him 
dead, they have spared the breaking of His limbs. Whereas 
the malefactors that were crucified with Him have had their 
joints twisted and snapt asunder lest haply any spark of pained 
existence should linger in them yet. But He of Nazareth 
having perished utterly, and no faint pulse of blood being 
feebly astir in any portion of His matchless frame, the men of 
the law have judged it politic and merciful to give His mortal 
pure remains to her who bore Him, Mary, His sorrowing 
Mother, who weeps beside Him now." 

Justitia heard, and her pale resolute face grew paler. 

" Is't possible Divinity can perish !' ' she murmured. Again 
she looked steadily, eearchingly at the thoughtful and earnest 
countenance of the Arimathean, and added with a touch of the 
domineering haughtiness which made her name a terror to her 
household, " Then, Counsellor Joseph, if thy words be true, 
and the Galilean Prophet be no longer living, what can thiue 
errand be concerning Him ?" 

" 'Tis naught but one of simple duty to the noble dead" 
he replied quickly, and with anxiety " I fain would bury the 
body of the Lord where it may be most reverently shrined and 
undisturbed. There is a sepulchre newly hewn among the 
rocks outside the city, not far from Calvary, but going down- 
wards towards Gethsemane, 'twas meant for mine own tomb, 
for well I know the years advance with me, and only God 
knoweth how soon I may be called upon to die, nevertheless 
if I may lay the body of the Master therein, I shall be well 
content to be interred in baser ground below Him. We would 
not have Him sepulchred with common malefactors, where- 
fore, noble lady, I seek thy lord the governor's permission to 
place within this unused burial cave of mine own choosing and 
purchase, the sacred corpse of One, who to my thinking, was 
indeed the Christ, albeit He hath been crucified. This is my 
errand, and I have sped hither in haste to ask from Pilate 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 159 

his free and favourable consent, which, if it be granted will 
make of me a grateful debtor to the gentleness of Rome." 

Justitia smiled darkly at the courteous phrase " the gentle- 
ness of Rome," then her fierce brows contracted ia a puzzled 
line. 

" Truly I know not how to aid thee, friend," she said after 
a pause " I have no power to grant thee this permit, and 
my lord is sorely wearied and distempered by strange fancies 
and dreams, unhappy and confusing dreams," she repeated 
slowly and with a slight shudder " Yet stay I Wait but 
one moment, I will inquire of him his mood, perchance it 
may relieve him to have speech with thee." 

Gliding away on her noiseless sandalled feet, her majestio 
figure in its trailing robes of white glimmered in and out 
the marble columns of the corridor and rapidly disappeared. 
Joseph of Arimathea sighed heavily, and stood looking vaguely 
at the trickling water running from the mouths of the stone 
lions into the marble-lined hollow in the centre of the vesti- 
bule, wondering to himself why his heart had beat so violently, 
and why his thoughts had been so suddenly troubled when he 
had been asked the question, " Art sure that He is dead ?" He 
was not left long alone to indulge in his reflections, Justitia 
returned almost as quickly as she had vanished, and pausing at 
a little distance beckoned to him. 

" Pilate will see thee" she said, as he eagerly obeyed her 
gesture " But should'st thou find him wild and wandering ia 
discourse, I pray thee heed him not. And beware how thou 
dost speak of his distemper to the curious gossips of the city, 
I would not have it noised abroad that he hath been all day 
so far distracted from his usual self" here her steady voice 
trembled and her proud eyes filled with sudden tears " He 
hath been ill very ill and only I have tended him ; and not- 
withstanding he is calmer now, thou must in converse use dis- 
cretion." 

" Trust me, noble lady" replied the Arimathean with pro- 
found feeling, " I will most faithfully endeavour that I shall not 
err in aught, or chafe thy lord with any new displeasure." 

She bent her haughty head, partly in acknowledgment of his 
words, partly to hide the tears that glittered on her lashes, and, 
without further parley, led the way to her husband's private 
room. In deep silence, hushing his footsteps needfully as he 
moved, the Arimathean counsellor followed her. 



1GO BARABBAS 



CHAPTER XXV. 

PASSING through a narrow passage curtained off from the 
rest of the house, they entered a long low vaulted apartment 
brilliantly ablaze with lights. Roman lamps set on iron brackets 
illuminated every corner that would otherwise have been dark, 
waxen torches flamed in every fixed sconce. There was so 
much flare, and faint smoke from burnt perfumes, that for a 
moment it was impossible to discern anything clearly, although 
the wide casement window was set open to the night and steps 
led down from it to a closely-walled garden on which the moon 
poured refreshing showers of silver radiance eclipsing all the 
artificial glamour and glare within. And at this casement, ex- 
tended on a couch, lay Pilate, pallid and inert, with half-closed 
eyes and limp hands falling on either side of the silken coverlet 
spread over him he had the supine and passive air of a long- 
ailing dying man to whom death would be release and blessed- 
ness. Joseph of Arimathea could scarcely restrain an excla- 
mation of amazed compassion as he saw him, but a warning 
glance from Justitia silenced him, and he repressed his feeling. 
She meanwhile went up to her husband's couch and knelt 
beside it. 

" The counsellor is here, Pontius" she said softly " Hast 
thou strength to give him audience ?" 

Pilate opened his eyes widely and stared vaguely at his visitor, 
then lifting one hand that trembled in the air with weakness 
beckoned him to approach. 

" Come nearer, nearer el ill" he murmured with a kind of 
feeble pettishness, " Thou hast the look of a shadow yonder, 
the room is full of shadows. Thou art Joseph ? From that 
ttty of the Jews called Arimathea?" 

" Even so, my lord" answered Joseph in subdued accents, 
noting with pained concern the Roman governor's prostrate and 
evidently suffering condition. 

" And being a Jew, what dost thou seek of me ?" went on 
Pilate, his heavy lids again half closing over his eyes " Surely 
I have this day fully satisfied the Israelitish thirst for blood 1" 

" Most noble governor," said Joseph, with as careful gentle- 
ness and humility as he could command " Believe me that I 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 161 

am not one of those -who forced thee to the deed 'twas evident 
thy spirit did repudiate and abhor. And albeit thou hast been 
named a tyrant and a cruel man by the unthinking of my 
nation, I know thy gentleness, having discovered much of thy 
good work in deeds of charity among the poor, therefore I 
come to beg of thee the Body of the Christ" 

With a sudden excited movement, Pilate dashed aside the 
silken draperies that covered him and sat up, nervously clutching 
his wife's arm. 

"The Body of the Christ!" he echoed wildly " Hearest 
thou that, Justitia ! The Body of the Christ 1" 

His purple garments fell about him in disordered folds, his 
vest half open showed his chest heaving agitatedly with his 
unquiet and irregular breathing, his eyes grew feverishly 
luminous, and gleamed with a strange restless light from under 
the shadow of his tossed and tumbled hair. Joseph, alarmed 
at his aspect, stood hesitating, Justitia looked at him and 
made him a mute sign to go on and make his appeal quickly. 

" Yea, 'tis the Body of the Christ I ask from thee" he 
proceeded then, anxiously yet resolvedly " And verily I would 
not have troubled thee at this hour, Pilate, but that thou art 
governor and ruler of the civil laws within Judaea, therefore 
thou alone can'st give me that which hath been slain by law. 
I fain would lay the sacred corpse within mine own new sepul- 
chre, with all the tears and prayers befitting a great hero 
dead." 

" Dead ?" cried Pilate fixing a wild stare upon him 
" Already dead ? Nay art thou sure ?" 

A chill tremor shook the strong nerves of the Arimathean. 
Here was the same question Justitia had asked him a few 
'minutes since, and it aroused the same strange trouble in his 
mind. And while he stood amazed, unable to find words for 
an immediate response, Pilate sprang erect, tossing his arms 
up like a man distraught. 

" Dead !" he cried again. " fools, fools whose sight is so 
deceived ! No mortal power can slay the ' Nazarene,' He 
lives and He hath always lived ! yea, from the beginning even 
Unto the end if any end there be ! What ? ye have crucified 
Him ? ye have seen His flesh pierced, and His blood flow ? 
Ye have touched Him ? ye have seen Him share in mortal 
labours, mortal woes, and mortal needs, ye have proved Him 
made of perishable fleshy stuff that ye can torture and destroy ? 
O poor dim-sighted fools ! Lo, ye have done the brarcsfc 
I 14* 



162 BARABBAS 

and most wondrous deed that ever was inscribed in history, 
ye have crucified a Divine Appearance ye have gloated over 
the seeming death of the Deathless ! A God was with us, 
wearing apparent mortal vesture, but those who saw the suffer- 
ing Man and Man alone, did only think they saw ! I looked 
beyond, I, Pilate, I beheld" Here he broke off with a 
smothered exclamation, his eyes fixing themselves alarmedly 
upon the outer garden bathed in the full glory of the moon. 
" Justitia ! Justitia!" he cried. 

She sprang to him, and he caught her convulsively in his 
arms, drawing her head down against his bosom and straining 
her to his heart with passionate violence. 

" Hush I hush 1" he murmured, " Let us not weep, the 
thing is done, remorse will not avail. Accursed Jews ! they 
forced my hand, they, with their devilish priest, did slay the 
Man, not I. ' Ecce Homo /' I cried to them, I sought to 
make them see even as I saw, the glory, the terror, and the 
wonder, the radiance of that seeming-human Form, so fine 
and marvellous, that methought it would have vanished into 
ether 1 Even as the lightning did He shine ! His flesh was 
but a garment, transparent as a mist through which one sees 
the sun ! Nevertheless, let us not weep despairingly, tears 
are but foolish for He is not dead He could not die, although 
He hath been crucified. He hath the secret clue of death ; - 
'tis a mystery unfathomable, for what the gods may mean 
by this we know not, and what the world hath done we 
know not, howbeit let the world look to it for we are not to 
blame !" He paused, caressing with a sort of fierce tenderness 
the dark ripples of his wife's luxuriant hair. " My love !" he 
said pityingly " My poor tired anxious heart 1 No more 
tears, Justitia, I pray thee, we will forget this day, for truly 
it concerns us not, 'tis the Jews' work, let the Jews answer 
for it for I will not, neither to Caxsar nor to God ! I have 
said and still will say I am innocent of the blood of this Just 
Man !" 

Here, loosening his arms suddenly from around his wife, he 
raised them with a proud and dignified gesture of protest, 
then turning suddenly, and perceiving Joseph of Arimathea 
where he stood apart, a silent and troubled spectator of tha 
scene, he advanced towards him, and said gently 

" Friend, what seekest thou of me?" 

The Arimathean cast a despairing glance of appeal at 
Justitia, who, hastily dashing away the tears on her cheeks and 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 163 

mastering the emotion that betrayed itself in her pale and 
sorrowful countenance, came to his rescue. 

" Dear lord, hast thou forgotten ?" she said gently, as with 
a guiding movement of her hand she persuaded Pilate to resume 
his seat upon the couch near the open window " Thou art not 
well, and the harassments of thy work have over-wearied thee. 
This man doth seek the body of the ' Nazarene' for burial, 
himself he charges with the duties of this office if thou wilt 
give him thy permit, grant him his boon I do beseech thee, 
and let him go his way, for thou must rest again and sleep 
thou hast been sorely tried." 

Pilate sank heavily among his cushions, looking blankly 
into nothingness. 

" Thou would'st bury the Christ ?" he asked at last, speak, 
ing with difficulty as though his tongue were stiff and refused 
utterance. 

" Such is my one desire, my lord" answered Joseph, hope- 
fully now, for Pilate seemed more capable of reason. 

" In thine own sepulchre?" 

"Even there." 

<; 'Tis large ? Will't hold embodied Light and Life and yet 
not rive asunder?" 

" My lord !" faltered the Arimathean in dismay and fear. 

Justitia slipped one arm around her husband's neck and said 
something to him in a soothing whisper. Pilate smiled some- 
what piteously, and drawing her hand down to his lips kissed it. 

" This gentle lady, my wife, good sir, tells me that my 
thoughts wander and that I fail to give thee fitting answer. I 
crave thy pardon, counsellor, thou art a counsellor it seems, 
and therefore no doubt hast patience with the erring and wisdom 
for the weak. Thou would'st ensepulchre the ' Nazarene ?' 
the body of the Crucified thou would'st number with dead 
men ? why then, even so let it be ! take thou possession of 
That which thou dost deem a corpse of common clay, thou 
hast my leave to honourably inter the same. My leave !" 
and he laughed wildly " My leave to shut within the tomb 
That which no tomb can hold, no closebarred cave can keep, 
no time destroy ! Go ! do as thou wilt, do all thou wilt ! 
thou hast thy boon !" 

Believed from his suspense, and full of gratitude, the Ari- 
mathean bowed profoundly to the ground, and was about to 
retire, when a great noise of disputation was heard in the outer 
vestibule. Justitia started up from her husband's side in 



164 BARABBAS 

wondering indignation and was on the point of going forth to 
inquire the cause of such unseemly disturbance when the door 
of the apartment was furiously flung open, and the high-priest 
Caiaphas burst in, his glistening sacerdotal garments disordered 
and trailing behind him, and his face livid with passion. 

" Thou art a traitor, Pilate I" he exclaimed " Already dost 
thou scheme with tricksters for the pretended resurrection 
of the ' Nazarene' 1" 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

PILATE rose slowly up and confronted him, Justitia at his 
side. He was now perfectly calm, and his pale features assumed 
a cold and repellent dignity. 

" Whom callest thou traitor, thou subject of Rome ?" he 
gald " K newest thou not that though thou art high-priest of 
the Jewish faith, thou art answerable to Caesar for insult to his 
officer?" 

Caiaphas stood breathless and trembling with rage. 

" Thou also art answerable to Csesar if thou dost lend thy- 
self to low imposture !" he said " Dost thou not remember 
that this vile deceiver out of Galilee who hath been crucified, 
did say ' After three days I will rise again f And do I 
not find thee giving audience to one of His known followers 
who oft hath entertained Him and listened to His doctrines? 
This counsellor" and he emphasised the term sarcastically, 
eyeing the unmoved and stately figure of Joseph of Arimathea 
up and down angrily " now seeks His body to bury it in a 
sepulchre, whereof he only hath the seal and secret. And 
why doth he offer this free service ? That he may steal the 
corpse in the silence of the second night, and make away with 
it, and then give out a rumour that the Christ is risen 1 So 
shall the last error be worse than the Jirst with the silly multi- 
tude, if his scheme be not prevented." 

Joseph lifted his clear grave eyes and looked full at the 
speaker. 

" I heed not thy wicked accusation, Caiaphas," he said 
tranquilly "Thou knowest it is false, and born from out the 
fury and suspicion of thy mind. Thy fears do make a coward 
of thee, perchance when thou didst find the veil of the 
Temple rent in the midst this day, and knewest'by inquiry 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 165 

that so it had been torn at the very moment of the passing of 
the soul of the ' Nazarene,' thou wert shaken with strange 
terrors that still do haunt and trouble tb.be. Rally thyself 
and be ashamed, for none shall steal the body I have claimed 
from Pilate. rest for the dead is granted even by the most 
unmerciful, and this rest is mine to give to one who whether 
human or divine, was innocent of sin and died through treach- 
ery undeservedly." 

The blood rushed to the high-priest's brows, and he clenched 
his hands in an effort to keep down his vising wrath. 

"Hearest thou that, Pilate?" he exclaimed "Sufferest 
thou this insolence?" 

" What insolence ?" asked Justitia suddenly " 'Tis true the 
Man of Nazareth had no fault in Him at all and that ye slew 
Him out of fear !" 

Caiaphas glared at her, his cold eyes sparkling with rage. 

" I argue not with women !" he said through his set teeth 
" They are not in our counsels, nor have they any right to 
judgment." 

Justitia smiled. Her full black eyes met his piercing shal- 
low ones with such immeasurable scorn as made him for the 
moment tremble. Avoiding her glance, he addressed himself 
once more to Pilate 

" Hear me, thou governor of Judasa under Caesar" he 
said " And weigh thou this matter well lest thou unheedfully 
fall beneath the weight of the Imperial displeasure. Thy 
Iloman soldiery are stricken with some strange disease and 
speak as with the milky mouths of babes, concerning mercy 1 
'tis marvellous to note yon bearded men seized with effemi- 
nate virtue 1 Wherefore, out of this sudden craze of mercy 
they have spared to break the limbs of the blasphemous ' Naza- 
rene,' proffering for excuse that He is dead already. What 
matter! I would have had every joint within His body 
wrenched apart ! yea, I would have had His very flesh hewn 
into pieces after death, if I had had my way 1" He paused, 
quivering with passion and breathing heavily. Pilate looked 
at him with immovable intentness. " Thy centurion is at 
fault" he continued " for he it is who hath, upon his own 
authority, given the corpse unto the women who besought it 
of him, and they make such a weeping and a lamentation as 
might rouse the multitude an' 'twere not that the hour is 
late, and night has fully fallen. And with them is that evil 
woman of the town, the Magdalen, who doth defy us to remove 



166 BARABBAS 

the body and place it as it should be, with the other malefac- 
tors, saying that this man" and he indicated by a disdainful 
gesture the Arimathean counsellor, " hath sought thy leave 
to lay it in his own new tomb with honour. Honour for a 
trickster and blasphemer ! If thou dost grant him this permit, 
I swear unto thee, Pilate, thou dost lend thyself unto a scheme 
of deep-laid cunning treachery!" 

Still Pilate eyed him with the same fixed stedfastness. 

" My centurion, thou sayest, is at fault" he observed pres 
ently in cold meditative accents " What centurion ?" 

"Petronius, even he who was in charge. I made him 
accompany me hither. He waits without." 

" Call him, Justitia," said Pilate, seating himself upon his 
couch and assuming an attitude of ceremonious dignity and 
reserve. 

Justitia obeyed, and in answer to her summons, the centu- 
rion entered, saluted and stood silent. 

"The 'Nazarene' is dead?" said Pilate addressing him in 
the measured tones of judicial inquiry. 

" Sir, He hath been dead these two hours and more." 

"Thou art not herein deceived?" and Pikte smiled 
strangely as he put the question. 

Petronius stared in respectful amazement. 

" My lord, we all beheld him die, and one of us did pierce 
His side to hasten dissolution." 

" Why did'st thou practise mercy thus ?" 

A troubled look clouded the soldier's honest face. 

" Sir, there have been many terrors both in earth aud air 
this day, and He seemed a sinless man and of a marvellous 
courage." 

Pilate turned towards Caiaphas. " Seest thou the reason of 
this matter?" he said "This Petronius is a Roman, and 'tis 
in Roman blood to give some reverence to courage. Your Jew 
is no respecter of heroic virtues, an' he were, he would not 
need to pay tribute unto Caesar I" 

The high-priest gave a scornful, half-derisive gesture. 

"The very man now crucified, whose heroism thy soldier 
doth admire, was a Jew," he said. 

" Not altogether," interposed Joseph of Arimathea suddenly 

-r-" Mary, His mother, was of Egypt." 
n u j 

Laiapnas sneered. 

" And Joseph his father was of Nazareth," he said" And 
V the father is, so i= the son." 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 167 

At these words a singular silence fell upon the group. Jus- 
titia grew deadly pale, and leaned on the corner of her hus- 
band's couch for support, her breath came and went hur- 
riedly and she laid one hand upon her bosom as though to still 
some teasing pain. Pilate half rose, there was a strange light 
in his eyes and he seemed about to speak, but apparently on 
consideration altering his intention he sat down again, turning 
so wild a gaze upon Petronius that that officer was both dis- 
mayed and startled. 

" Thou hast done well" he said at last, breaking the op- 
pressive stillness by an evident effort, "Mercy doth well be- 
come a stalwart Roman, strong in brute strength as thou art. 
I blame thee not in aught. And thou, great Caiaphas" here 
he fixed his eyes full on the high-priest, " dost nobly practise 
sentiments which best befit thy calling, revenge, bloodthirsti- 
ness and fear ! Peace ! snatch not the words from out my 
mouth by thy unseemly rage of interruption, I know the 
terror that thou hast of even the dead body of Him that thou 
hast slain, but thou art too late in thy desire to carry cruelty 
beyond the grave. The Arimathean counsellor hath my per- 
mit to bury the ' Nazarene' in honour even as he doth desire, 
in his own sepulchre newly hewn. But if thou dost suspect 
his good intent, and thinkest there is treachery in his honest 
service, seal thou the tomb thyself with thine own mark, and 
set a watch of as many as thou wilt, picked men and cautious, 
to guard the sepulchre till the third day be past. Thus shall 
all sides have justice, thou, Joseph, and thou, Caiaphas, 
and inasmuch as this Petronius showeth too much mercy, thou 
can'st choose another centurion than he to head thy band. 
More I cannot do to satisfy demand" here he broke off with 
a shuddering sigh of weariness. 

" 'Tis enough" said Caiaphas sullenly "Nevertheless, 
Pilate, had'st thou been wise, thou would'st have refused the 
malefactor's body to this counsellor." 

And he darted an angry and suspicious glance at the Ari- 
mathean who returned his look steadily. 

"Hast urged enough against me, Caiaphas?" he said 
" Verily, were it not for my race and lineage, I would take 
shame unto myself this day that I am born a Jew, hearing 
thee vent such paltry rage and puny fear, and thou the high- 
priest of the Temple ! But I will not bandy words with thee ; 
I do most readily accept the judgment of our excellent lord 
the governor, and herewith invite thee to be witness of the 



168 BARABBAS 

burial of the ' Nazarene.' Thou can'st examine the sepulchre 
within and without to make thyself sure there is no secret pas- 
sage to serve for thy suspected robbers of the dead. Bring 
thou thy seals of office, and set a watch both night and day, 
I give thee promise that I will not hinder thee." 

Caiaphas bent his head in stiff and haughty acknowledgment, 
and turned on his heel to leave the apartment, then glancing 
over his shoulder at the pensive and drooping figure of Pilate 
he said with forced pleasantness 

" I wish thee better health, Pilate !" 

" I thank thee, priest" responded Pilate without looking up 
" I wish thee better courage !" 

With an indifferent nod, Caiaphas was about to leave the 
room, when seeing that Petronius the centurion had just saluted 
the governor and was also departing he stopped him by a 
gesture. 

"Did'st thou inquire as I bade thee, concerning young 
Iscariot?" 

" Sir," answered Petronius gravely " 'tis rumoured in the 
city that Iscariot is dead." 

" Dead !" Caiaphas clutched at him to steady himself, for 
everything seemed suddenly reeling, then he repeated again 
in a hoarse whisper " Dead !' ' 

For a moment the air around him grew black, and when he 
recovered his sickening senses, he saw that Pilate had risen and 
had come forward with his wife clinging to him, and that both 
were looking at him in undisguised astonishment, while Joseph 
of Arimathea was shaking him by the arm. 

"What ails thee, Caiaphas?" asked the counsellor, " Why 
art thou thus stricken suddenly?" 

" 'Tis naught 'tis naught !" and the proud priest drew him- 
self up erect, the while his eyes wandered to the face of the 
centurion once more, " Thou did'st say" and he spoke with 
hesitation and difficulty " that 'tis rumoured Judas is dead ? 
Surely 'tis false, how could he die ?" 

" Sir, he hath slain himself, so runs the people's whisper." 

Caiaphas pressed one hand over bis eyes to shut out the 
specks of red that swam before his sight like drops of blood. 
Then he looked round him with feigned composure his coun- 
tenance was very pale. 

"See you" he said unsteadily "It can but move me to 
think that yesterday Judas was well and full of life, and that 
to-day he should be dead 1 A foolish youth, of wild and 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 169 

erring impulse, but nevertheless much beloved by his father 
and his sister Judith" Here he broke off with a fierce ex- 
clamation of mingled wrath and pain and seizing the Arima- 
thean by the arm, he cried boisterously 

" Come, thou subtle and righteous counsellor ! On with me, 
and open thou thy rocky cave of death that we may thrust 
within it the cause of all this mischief! Farewell, Pilate! 
take health upon thee speedily and my blessing ! for thou 
hast done justice in this matter, albeit late and forced from 
thee 1 And by thy legal sanction, I will set such a watch 
around the dead blasphemer's sepulchre as hath not been ex- 
celled in vigilance or guardianship for any treasure of the 
world ! his prophecy shall prove a lie ! ' After three days' ! 
. . . nay ! not after a thousand and three ! Let thunders 
crash, earth yawn and mountains split asunder, the ' Nazarene' 
shall never rise again !" 

And with a wild gesture of defiance he rushed from the 
room, dragging the Arimathean with him and followed by 
Petrouius in a state of wonderment and fear. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

PILATE and his wife remained standing where they were for 
a moment, looking at each other in silence. The mingled light 
of the flickering lamps around them, and the moonbeams pour- 
ing in through the open window gave a spectral pallor to their 
faces, which in absorbed expression reflected the same trouble, 
the same perplexed unquiet thought. After a pause, Pilate 
turned and moved feebly back to his couch, Justitia following 
him. 

" Oh, to escape this terror !" he murmured, as he sank 
among his pillows once more and closed his eyes " 'Tis every- 
where, 'tis upon Caiaphas even as it is upon us all ! A terror 
of the unknown, the undeclared, the invisible, the deathless ! 
What hath been done this day we cannot comprehend, we can 
but feel a mystery in the air, and we grope blindly, seeing 
nothing touching nothing and therefore doubting every- 
thing, but nevertheless afraid ! Afraid of what ? Of our- 
pelves ? Nay, for we have killed the Man who did so much 
H 15 



170 BARABBAS 

amaze us. What more then ? Why, no more, since He is 
dead. And being dead, what cause is there for fear?" 

He sighed heavily. Justitia knelt beside him. 

" Dear, my lord" she began softly, her voice trembling a 
little. He turned his head towards her. 

" What would'st thou say, Justitia ?" he asked gently 
" Methinks my moods do trouble thee, thou most beloved of 
women, I fain would be more cheerful for thy sake. But 
there is a darkness on my spirit that not even thy love can lift, 
thou hast wept also, for I see the tears within thine eyes. 
Why art thou moved to weakness, thou strong heart ? what 
would they say of thee in Rome, thou who art adjudged a 
very queen of pride, if they beheld thee now ?" 

Justitia answered not, for all at once her head drooped 
upon her husband's breast, and clinging to him close, she gave 
way to a sudden paroxysm of passionate weeping. Pilate held 
her to him, soothing her with trembling touch and whispered 
words, now and again lifting his eyes to look with a kind of 
apprehension and expectancy round the silent room as though 
he thought some one besides themselves witnessed their actions. 
After a while when the violence of her sobbing ceased, he said 

" Tell me, Justitia tell me all that troubles thee. Some 
secret grief thou hast kept pent up within thee through the 
day, aud what with storm and earthquake and darkness and 
thy fears for me, thou hast brooded on sorrow dumbly, as women 
often do when they have none to love them. But I who 
love thee more than life, Justitia, have the right to share thy 
heaviness, I am strong enough or should be strong, look 
up!" and he raised her tearful face between his hands and 
gazed at her tenderly "Unburden thy soul, Justitia! . . . 
tell me thy dream !" 

With a cry she sprang erect, pushing back her ruffled hair 
from her brows aud gazing out into the moonlit garden with 
a strange expression of alarm and awe. 

" No, no !" she whispered " I cannot, I dare not ! 'Tis 
dark with the terror thou hast spoken of, a portent and a 
mystery ; it brings no comfort, and thou can'et not bear to 
hear more evil omens of disaster" 

She broke off, adding presently in the same hushed accents, 

" Did'st thou understand, Pontius, when Petronius spoke, 
that Iscariot was dead ?" 

'I Surely I understood" responded Pilate" What marvel 
in it? 'Twas he that did betray his Master to the priests. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLDS TRAGEDY 171 

He dared not testify of this his treachery, and when I asked 
for him at this morning's trial, he could not be found. Out 
of remorse he slew himself, or so I judge a fitting death 
for such a traitor. Thou dost not grieve for him ?" 

"I knew him not" said Justitia thoughtfully "else 
perchance if I had known I might have pitied b'm. But 
Judith loved him." 

Pilate moved impatiently among his cushions. 

" Much do I marvel at thy interest in that most haughty 
and most forward maiden" he said " That she is beautiful 
I grant, but vanity doth make her beauty valueless. How 
earnest thou to choose her as a friend ?" 

" She is no friend of mine," Justitia answered slowly, still 
looking out at the clear night li Save that she has been long 
left motherless, and is unguided and undisciplined, wherefore 
I have counselled her at times, though truly my counsels 
are but wasted words, and she hath evil rooted in her soul. 
Nevertheless believe me, Pontius, now will her vanity have 
end, for if she hath a heart, that heart will break to-night 1" 

Her husband made no reply, and a long silence fell between 
them. During this pause, a sound of joyous singing reached 
them, a party of young men and maidens were strolling 
homeward from some festive meeting, thrumming on stringed 
instruments and carolling as they went. Over the wall of 
Pilate's enclosed garden their figures could be seen passing 
along the open street beyond and occasional scraps of their 
conversation echoed distinctly through the air. 

" Ephra, dost thou remember last week," said a man's voice 
" when the crowd went out to meet the ' Nazarene* who died 
to-day ? Can'st recall the wild tune they sang ? 'twas passing 
sweet and ended thus, ' Hosanna !' " 

In a high pure tenor he sent the word pealing through the 
evening stillness, his companions caught it up and chorussed 
all together 

"Hosanna ! Hosanna '. 

Hosanna in the Highest I 

Blessed is he that cometh, 

That cometh in the name of the Lord! 

Hosanna in the Highest !" 

The stirring triumph and grandeur of the melody seemed 
to terrify Justitia, for she caught at the heavy curtain that 



172 BARABBAS 

partially draped the window and held it clenched in her hand 
convulsively as though for support, her whole frame trembling 
with some inward excitement. Suddenly the singing stopped, 
broken by laughter, and another voice cried out jestingly, 

" Beware the priests ! An' we raise such a chant as this we 
shall all be crucified 1" 

They laughed again, and sauntering on, passed out of sight 
and hearing. 

Justitia dropped the curtain from her grasp, and shivered as 
with deadly cold. Pilate watched her anxiously as she came 
slowly towards him step by step and sat down on a low bench 
close to his couch, clasping her hands together in her lap and 
looking straight before her vaguely into empty air. 

" Even so was the music in my dream' ' she murmured 
" Methought the very dead did rise and sing ' Hosanna !' " 

Pilate said nothing, he seemed afraid to disturb the current 
of her thoughts. Presently raising her eyes to hid, she 
asked 

" Dost thou in very truth desire to hear ? Or will it weary 
thee?" 

" Nay, it will comfort me" he answered, taking one of her 
listless hands and pressing it to his lips " If any comfort I 
can have 'twill be in sharing whatever sorrow troubles thee. 
Speak on, and tell me all, for from the very moment thou 
did'st send to me this morning at the Tribunal, my soul has 
been perplexed with wondering at this act of thine, so unlike 
thee at any time." 

Justitia sighed. 

" Ay, it was unlike me, and ever since, I have been most 
unlike myself. Thou knowest 'twas a morning dream, for 
night was past, and thou had'st but lately left me to take thy 
place within the Hall of Judgment. I had arisen from my 
bed, but as yet I had not called my women, and partially 
arrayed, I sat before my mirror, slowly binding up my hair. 
My eyes were strangely heavy and my thoughts confused, 
and suddenly the polished surface of the metal into which I 
gazed grew black, even as a clear sky darkening with storm. 
Then came a noise as of many waters thundering in my ears, 
and after that I know not what did chance to me. Never- 
theless it seemed I was awake, and wandering solitary within 
some quiet region of eternal shade." 

She paused, trembling a little, then went on. 

"A solemn depth of peace it seemed to be, wherein was 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 173 

neither landscape, light nor air. Methought I stood upon a 
rift of rock gazing far downward, and there before mine eyes 
were laid millions on millions of the dead, dead men and 
women white as parchment or bleached bone. Side by side in 
wondrous state they lay, and over them all brooded a pale 
shadow as of outspread wings. And as I looked upon them all 
and marvelled at their endless numbers, a rush of music sounded 
like great harps swung in the wind, and far away a Voice 
thundered ' Hosanna !' And lo ! the pale shadow of wings 
above the dead, furled up and vanished, and through some un- 
seen portal came a blazing Cross of Light, and after it, white 
as a summer cloud and glorious as the sun, followed the 
' Nazarene' ! ' Awake, ye dead !' He cried ' Awake, for 
Death is ended 1 Awake and pass from hence to Life 1' And 
they awoke ! yea, they awoke in all the plenitude of strength 
and wondrous beauty, those millions upon millions of long-per- 
ished mortals, they uprose in radiant ranks like flowers break- 
ing into bloom, adorned with rays of light they stood, great 
angels every one, and cried aloud ' Glory to Thee, O Christ, 
Thou Messenger of God ! Glory to Thee, Thou holy Pardoner 
of our sinsl Thou Giver of Eternal Life! Glory to Thee, 
Redeemer of the world ! we praise and worship Thee for ever 1' 
Then was my dreaming spirit seized with shuddering and fear, 
I turned away mine eyes unable to endure the dazzling lumi- 
nance and wonder, and when I looked again, the scene was 
changed." 

Here Justitia broke off, and leaning closer to her husband, 
caught both his hands in hers, and gazed earnestly into his 
face. 

" Thinkest thou not," she whispered " that this vision was 
strange ? Why should it come to me ? I who ever doubted 
all gods, and have in my soul accepted death as each man's 
final end ? 'Tis a thought most unwelcome to me, that the 
dead should rise 1" 

Pilate met her eyes with a wistful woe and sympathy in hia 
own. 

" Yea, 'tis unwelcome" he said " I would not live again 
had I the choice. For we do things in this our life 'twere 
best not to remember, and having sinned, one's only rescue 
is to die, die utterly and so forget we ever were. Yet per- 
chance there is no forgetfulness, there may be an eternal 
part within us," he stopped, gazing around him nervously 
18 Hast thou no more to tell ? this was not all thy dream ?" 
15* 



174 B ARABS AS 

" All no !" cried Justitia rising from her seat with an un- 
conscious gesture of desperation " Would that it were ! For 
what remains is naught but horror, horror and mystery and 
pain. 'Tis what I further saw within my vision that made me 
send my message in such haste to thee, I thought I might 
avert misfortune and ward off evil from thy path, my husband, 
for if dreams have any truth, which I pray they have not, 
thou art surely threatened with some nameless doom 1" 

Pilate looked up at her troubled face and smiled forcedly. 

" Fear not for me, Justitia" he said " Trust me there is 
no other doom save death, and that doth hourly threaten every 
man. I marvel at thy tremors, thou who art wontedly of so 
bold a spirit I Rally thy usual courage ! surely I shall not 
die of hearing of disaster in a dream 1 Speak on ! what else 
did'st thou behold ?" 

" I beheld a mighty ocean" replied Justitia raising one 
hand solemnly as she spoke " And this ocean was of human 
blood and covered all the earth ! And methought that every 
drop within that scarlet sea did have a voice of mingled tears 
and triumph, that cried aloud ' Hail, Jesus of Nazareth, Son 
of the God Eternal!' Then on the ghastly waves there 
floated, even as floats a ship, a wondrous temple, gleaming with 
gold and precious stones, and on the summit of its loftiest pin- 
nacle a jewelled Cross did shine. And in my dream I under- 
stood that all the kings and emperors and counsellors of the 
world had reared this stately fabric to the memory and the 
worship of the ' Nazarene' 1" 

" To the memory and the worship of the ' Nazarene' !" 
repeated Pilate slowly " A temple floating on a sea of blood J 
well, what then ?" 

" Then," went on Justitia, her dark eyes dilating as she grew 
more and more absorbed in her narration " then I saw the 
heavens rent asunder, and many wondrous faces, beautiful and 
wise but sorrowful, looked down. And from the waves of 
blood arose wild sounds of lamentation and despair, and as I 
listened I comprehended that the lofty floating temple I beheld 
was crushing underneath it the struggling souls of men. 
' How long, O Lord 1 how long !' they cried, and ' Save, 
Lord, or we perish !' Then came a great and terrible noise as 
of martial music mixed with thunder, and lo ! a mighty Sword 
fell straight from Heaven, and smote the temple in the midst 
BO that it parted in twain and drifted on the crimson flood a 
wreck, and even as it split, I saw the secret of its wickedness, 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 175 

an 'altar splashed with blood and strewn with dead men's 
boaes and overflowing in every part with bags of gold ill- 
gotten, and confronting it in lewdest mockery of worship 
with lies upon his lips and coin grasped in both his hands 
there knelt a leering Devil in a Priest's disguise !" 

She paused, breathing quickly in a kind of suppressed ex- 
citement then continued, 

" Now, as I watched the sundered halves of the smitten 
temple, drifting to right and left and circling round about to 
sink, a wrathful voice exclaimed, ' Many shall call upon Me 
saying, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and 
in thy name done many wonderful works f A nd I will say 
unto them Depart from Me, I never knew ye, ye worJcers of 
iniquity /' And even as the voice sounded, the temple sank, 
and naught was left of it but the topmost Cross, floating alone 
upon the sea !" 

" Always the Cross !" murmured Pilate perplexedly " Doth 
it threaten to become a symbol ?" 

" I know not," answered Justitia with a far-off dreamy ex- 
pression in her face " 'twas ever present in my dream. And 
now to hear the end, methought I watched the lonely Cross 
tossed by itself upon the sea, and wondered whether like the 
temple it had once adorned 'twould also sink. To and fro it 
floated, shining like a star, and presently I saw that wherever 
it rested for a space, it changed the waves of blood to a light 
like liquid fire. Then happened a strange marvel ; out of 
the far distance came a ship, sailing straightly and with speed, 
'twas small and light and white as foam, and within it, steer- 
ing boldly onward, sat a woman alone. And as her vessel 
sped across the dreadful sea, great monsters of the deep arose 
and threatened her, the pallid hands of drowned men clutched 
at her, noises there were of earthquake and of thunder, 
nevertheless she sailed on fearlessly, and as she journeyed, 
smiled, and sang. And I beheld her course with wonderment, 
for she was steering steadily towards the Cross that floated lost 
upon the waves. Nearer she came, and soon she reached it, 
and leaning from her vessel's edge, she caught it in both hands 
and raised it up towards heaven. ' Jesus, thou Messenger of 
God 1' she cried ' Through thy great Love we claim eternal 
Glory !' And with the swiftness of lightning she was an- 
swered ! the sea of blood was changed to living flame, her 
ship became a cloud of light and she herself an angel clad in 
wings, and from the Cross she held streamed such a splendour 



170 BARABBAS 

fts illumined all the heavens ! And with thunder and with 
music and rejoicing, the gateways of the air, methought, were 
opened, and with a thousand thousand winged creatures round 
Him and above Him, and a new world rising like the morning 
eun behind Him, again, again I saw the ' Nazarene' I And 
with a voice of silver-sweet and overwhelming triumph He 
proclaimed ' Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words 
shall not pass away /' " 

She waited a moment, then went on 

" The ' Nazarene' ! no other than the ' Nazarene' it was 
whom I beheld thus gloriously surrounded ! the very ' Naza- 
rene' whom thou, Pontius, wert asked to judge and to con- 
demn ! No marvel was it that I sent to thee, and in my scroll 
I would have told thee I had dreamt He was a god, but that I 
feared some other eye than thine might intercept and scan my 
words. Therefore I wrote ' have naught to do with that just 
man,' alas ! 'twas foolish of me ! thou could'st not listen to 
a woman's pleading in a matter of the law, and when my slave 
returned I knew mine errand had been fruitless. Nevertheless 
I strove to warn thee" 

" Of what ?" asked Pilate hoarsely, he had covered his 
eyes with his hand, and spoke with difficulty " Of naught, 
save that being just 'twere a pity He should die. But knowest 
thou not 'tis ever the just who are condemned? And that 
thou did'st suffer in a dream was better than my case ; what 
I saw and what I suffered was no dream !" 

He sighed bitterly, heavily, and Justitia sitting down beside 
him, leaned her head upon his shoulder. 

" I have not yet told thee all" she said in a trembling 
voice, " The rest concerns thy fate !" 

Pilate removed his hand from his eyes and looked round 
at her. 

"My fate!" he echoed indifferently " Whate'er it be, 
surely I shall have force enough to meet it 1" 

She held his hands in both her own and pressed them con- 
vulsively. 

" Ay, full well I know thou hast force enough for anything" 
she said " else thou would'st not be Roman. But to perish 
even as Iscariot" 

He started away from her. 

" As Iscariot 1" he cried indignantly " Nay, I am no 
traitor !" 

She looked at him, her face growing very white and her lipa 



A DREAM OF TEE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 177 

trembling. She was evidently nerving herself to utter some- 
thing which she feared would be unwelcome. 

" The gods might call thee coward, Pontius !" she said at 
last faintly, and as though the words were wrested out of her. 

He turned upon her in astonishment and wrath. 

" What did'st thou say, Justitia ?" he demanded fiercely 
" Surely I have not heard thee aright ? thou did'st not dare 
speak such a word to me as ' coward' ?" 

Her heart beat violently, but she kept her eyes fixed upon 
him tenderly and without any visible sign of fear. 

" If thou did'st see supernal glory in the ' Nazarene' " she 
faltered slowly, and then paused, leaving her sentence un- 
finished. 

Pilate's head drooped, he shrank and shivered as though 
some invisible hand had struck him with a heavy blow. 

"Go on," he said unsteadily "Albeit I know, I know 
now what thou would'st say." 

" If thou did'st see supernal glory in the ' Nazarene,' " she 
repeated in firmer accents " if thou didst recognise the God 
behind the Man, ay, even to swoon thereat, surely thou 
should'st have openly proclaimed this truth unto the priests 
and people." 

" They would not have believed me" he answered her in a 
husky whisper, " They would have deemed me mad, unfit 
to rule" 

" What matter ?" said Justitia dauntlessly, " What are the 
beliefs of priests or people measured against the utterance of a 
Truth ? If thou had'st spoken" 

" I tell thee they would have called me crazed" said Pilate, 
rising and pacing the room agitatedly " They would have told 
me that my vision was deceived, that my brain wandered. 
How could'st thou ever persuade a callous crowd of the exist- 
ence of the supernatural ?" 

" How do they persuade themselves?" demanded Justitia 
" These very Jews do swear by supernatural shows that seem 
impossible. Do they not say that God Himself taught Moses 
the Commandments on Mount Sinai? will they not even 
accept as truth that their most vengeful Jehovah hath oft 
condoned murder as a holy sacrifice, as in the story of their 
own judge Jephthah, who slew his innocent daughter to satisfy 
the horrible bloodthirstiness of Heaven 1 Why should the 
supernatural seem less to be believed in one phase of existence 
than another?" 



178 BARABBAS 

tl I know not !" answered Pilate still walking to and fro 
distressfully, "Make me not answerable for the inconsist- 
encies of man ! I did my belt and utmost with the people, 
if I had told them what I saw they would have dragged 
me from the judgment-seat as one possessed of devils and 
distraught; and Caesar would have stripped me of author- 
ity." 

"Thou could'st have suffered all loss with equanimity," 
said Justitia thoughtfully "provided thine own conscience 
had been clear." 

He gave her no response, but still paced restlessly up and 
down. 

Justitia moved to the window and gazed out at the dark, 
smooth velvet-looking foliage of the fig trees at the end of the 
garden. 

" It was a pale bright light, even like the beaming of this 
very moon" she said " that shone upon me in the closing 
of my dream. I stood, methought, in one of the strangest, 
loneliest, wildest corners of the world, great mountain-peaks 
towered around me, white and sparkling with a seeming-bitter 
cold, and at my feet a solemn pool lay black and stirless. 
And as I looked, I saw thee, Pontius ! I saw thee flitting 
even as a spectre among the jagged rocks of those most solitary 
hills, thou wert old and wan and weary, and had'st the livid 
paleness of approaching death. I called thee, but thou would'st 
not answer, onward thou did'st tread, and cam'st so near to 
me I could have touched thee ! but ever thou did'st elude my 
grasp. All suddenly" and here she turned towards her hus- 
band, her eyes darkening with her thoughts " I beheld thee, 
drifting like a cloud blown by the wind, towards a jutting 
peak that bent above that dreary pool of waveless waters 
there thou did'st pause, and with a cry that pierced my soul, 
thou did'st exclaim ' Jesus of Nazareth, thou Son of God, 
have mercy on me !' Then, ere I could bid thee turn 
and wait for me, thou did'st plunge forward, forward and 
down, down into the chill and darksome lake which closed 
even as a grave above thee ! thou wert gone, gone into death 
and silence, and I, shrieking upon thy name, awoke !" 

" And waking thus in terror thou did'st send to me ?" asked 
Pilate gently approaching her where she stood, and encircling 
her with his arm. 

She bent her head in assent. 

" Even then. And later, when my messenger returned 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 179 

from thee, I heard the people shout 'Not this man, but Barak* 
bas.' Who is Barabbas ?" 

" A thief and murderer" said Pilate quickly " But he 
hath the popular sympathy. Once he was in the honourable 
employ of Shadeen, the Persian jewel-merchant of this city, 
and as a reward for trust reposed in him, he stole some priceless 
pearls from out a private coffer of his master. Moreover he 
was one of a band of revolutionary malcontents, and did stab 
to death the Pharisee, G-abrias, out in the open streets. 'Tis 
more than eighteen months ago now thou wert visiting thy 
friends in Rome, and knewest naught of it. I would have had 
Barabbas crucified, nevertheless the people have given him 
rescue and full liberty. They celebrate their feast by the 
release of a murderer and the slaughter of the Sinless. 'Tis 
their chosen way and I am not to blame !" 

" Iscariot also served in the house of Shadeen," said Justitia 
meditatingly. 

" Even so I have heard." 

" And thou art not troubled, Pontius, by my dream ?" she 
questioned earnestly " Seest thou no omen in its end concern- 
ing thee, when I beheld thee perish in the gloom and solitude, 
self-slain, even as Iscariot?" 

He shuddered a little and forced a faint smile. 

" If I am troubled, Justitia, 'tis because thou art, and be- 
cause trouble doth vaguely press upon us all to-day. Trust me 
the very Jews are not without their fears, seeing that the storm 
hath rent their Temple veil, and darkened the land with such 
mysterious suddenness. 'Tis enough to shake the spirits of the 
boldest, but now perchance evil is past, and by and by the air 
will rid itself of all forebodings. Lo, how divinely clear the 
sky ! how fair the moon ! 'tis a silver night for the slumber 
of the ' Nazarene' 1" 

She looked at him with wondering, dilating eyes. 

" Speakest thou in sober reason, Pontius ?" she said " Wilt 
thou insist upon thy fancy that He is not dead, and that He 
cannot die ? Thinkest thou Ho only sleeps ?" 

Pilate drew her closer to him. 

" Hush, hush !" he said in a low trembling tone " What- 
ever I may think I must say nothing. Let us hold our peace, 
let us live as the world would have us live, in the proud 
assumption that there is nothing in the universe more powerful 
or more wonderful than ourselves ! So shall we fit ourselves 
for the material side of nature, and if there be in truth, 



180 BARABBAS 

another side, a spiritual, we can shut our eyes and Bwear we 
know naught of it. So shall we be deemed wise, and sane ! 
and we shall give offence to no one save to God, if a God 
perchance there be !" 

His voice grew faint his eyes had a vacant stare, he was 
looking out and upward to the brilliant sky. Suddenly he 
brought his gaze down from the heavens to earth and fixed it 
on the open road beyond his garden where a small dark group 
of slowly moving figures just then appeared. 

" Who goes yonder ?" he said inquiringly " Seest thou, 
Justitia, they take the private path towards the house of 
Iscariot ? Surely they carry some heavy burden?" 

Justitia leaned forward to look, then drew back with a faint 
cry. 

" Come away, come away 1" she whispered, shivering and 
drawing her flowing robes closer about her " Do not wait here 
do not watch them, they are bearing home the dead !" 

"The dead!" echoed Pilate "Then 'tis the body of 
Judas !" 

Justitia laid her hand entreatingly against his lips. 

" Hush hush ! If it be, as indeed I feel it is, do not speak 
of it do not look !" And with agitated impatience she drew 
the curtain across the window and shut out the solemn beauty 
of the night " I am chilled with horror, Pontius, I can bear 
no more ! I would not see dead Judas in my dreams ! Let us 
go hence and rest and try to sleep, and, if we can, forget 1" 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

THAT same night, before a richly-chased mirror of purely 
polished silver, and gazing at her own fair face reflected in it 
by the brilliant lustre of the moon, Judith Iscariot sat, lost m 
a pleasant reverie. She was alone, she had dismissed her 
attendant women, the picture of her perfect loveliness ren- 
dered lovelier by the softness of the lunar beams charmed her, 
and she would not have so much as a small hand-lamp kindled 
lest its wavering flicker should destroy the magical effect of her 
beauty mirrored thus and set about with glory by the argent 
light of heaven. Leaning back in a low carved chair she 



A DREAM. OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 181 

clasped her round arms idly behind her head and contemplated 
herself critically with a smile. She had cast aside the bright 
flame-tinted mantle she had worn all day, and was now arrayed 
in white, a straight plain robe of thin and silky texture that 
clung about her figure closely, betraying every exquisite curve 
and graceful line, her fiery golden hair unbound to its lull 
length fell to the very floor in glistening showers, and from 
underneath the thick bright ripples of it clustering on her 
brow, her dark jewel-like eyes flashed with a mingling of joy 
and scorn. 

" What cowards, after all, are men !" she murmured half 
aloud, "Even the strongest! Yon base Barabbas was nigh 
to weeping for the death of the accursed ' Nazarene,' me- 
thinks 'twas terror for himself rather than pity for the dying. 
And Caiaphas ! who would have thought that he would be 
paralysed with fear when they told him of the rending of the 
Temple veil !" 

She laughed softly, and her lips laughing back at her from 
the silver surface into which she gazed, had so bewitching a 
sweetness in their smile that she leaned forward to observe 
them more intently. 

" Verily 'tis no marvel that they dote upon me one and all" 
she said, studying her delicate features and dazzling com- 
plexion with complacent vanity, " Even smiling so, I draw 
the subtle Caiaphas my way, he passeth for a wise priest, yet 
if I do but set my eyes upon him thus" and she half closed 
them and peered langorously through their sweeping lashes 
" he pales and trembles, or thus" and she flashed them fully 
open in all their fatal brilliancy " he loses breath for very 
love, and gapes upon me, flushed and foolish like one stricken 
with the burning of the sun. And Barabbas, I must rid me 
of Barabbas, though there is something fierce about him that 
I love, albeit he showed but little love for me to-day, shaken 
and palsied as he was by cowardice." 

She took up a comb and began to pass it slowly through the 
shining splendour of her hair. Gradually her face became 
more meditative and a slight frown contracted her brows. 

" Nevertheless there was a horror in that storm I" she con- 
tinued in whispered accents " And even now my heart mis- 
gives me strangely, I would that Judas were at home." 

She rose up, slim and stately, and stood before her mirror, 
the golden weight of half her tresses in one hand. Round 
about her the moonlight fell in a glistening halo, touching here 
16 



182 BARABBAS 

and there a jewel on her arm or bosom to a sudden glimmer 
of white fire. 

"Caiaphas should have told the people what I bade him" 
she murmured, " that the tempest was awakened by the evil 
sorceries of the ' Nazarene.' He was possessed of devils, and 
they did cause the pitchy darkness and the tremor of the earth 
that rent the rocks asunder. 'Twas even so, and Caiaphas 
should have spoken thus, but he, too, for the moment, lost 
judgment through his fears." 

Pausing, she twisted her hair mechanically round and round 
her fingers. 

"What was the magic of the Man of Nazareth?" she 
queried, as though making the inquiry of her own reflection 
that gazed earnestly back at her from the silver oval surface 
she confronted "I could see none save beauty. Beauty He 
had undoubtedly, but not such beauty as a woman loves. 
'Twas too austere and perfect, too grave and passionless, 
albeit He had strange light within His eyes that for a passing 
second moved me, even me, to terror ! And then the thunder 
came, and then the darkness" 

She shivered slightly, then laughed, and glanced up at 
the moon that shone, round and full, in at her open case- 
ment. 

" 'Twas a malignant spell He cast," she said " But now 'tis 
ended, and all alarms have ceased. And truly it is well for 
us that rle is dead, for such fanatics are dangerous. And now 
is Judas undeceived, he knows this prophet whom he called 
his Master is no god after all but simply man, and he will 
repent him of his wanderings and return to us again. When 
his first rage is past, he will come back ashamed and sorrowful, 
and seeking pardon for his fury of last night, and we will 
welcome him with joy and feasting and forgiveness, and once 
more we shall be happy. Yea, surely Caiaphas did advise mo 
well, and in the death of the blasphemous ' Nazarene' Judas id 
saved from further harm." 

She threw back her hair over her shoulders and smiled. 
Then opening a massive brass-bound casket near her, she drew 
forth a handful of various jewels, and looked at them care- 
lessly one by one, selecting at last a star-shaped ornament of 
magnificent rubies. 

" 'Tis a fair gift" she murmured, holding it up in the 
moonlight and watching it flash a dull red in the silver rays 
"I know not that I have ever seen a fairer I 'Twas wise 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 183 

of Caiaphas not to bestow this on his sickly spouse, 'twould 
ill become the pallid skin of the daughter of Annas." 

She studied the gems carefully, then diving anew into the 
casket brought out a chain of exquisite pearls, each pearl as 
large as the ripe seed of Indian maize. 

" How well they go together thus !" she said, setting them 
with the ruby star against the whiteness of her bare arm 
" They should be worn in company, the high-priest's rubies 
and the stolen pearls of Barabbas !" 

Her lips parted in a little mocking smile, and for a moment 
or two she held the gems in her hand, absorbed in thought. 
Then, slowly fastening the pearls round her throat, she put 
back the ruby pendant into the jewel-coffer, and again peered 
at herself in the silver mirror. And as she silently absorbed 
the glowing radiance of her own matchless beauty, she raised 
her arms with a gesture of irrepressible triumph. 

" For such as I am the world is made !" she exclaimed 
" For such as I am, emperors and kings madden theni;>elves 
and die ! For such as I am proud heroes abase themselves as 
slaves. No woman lives who can be fairer than I, and what 
shall I do with my fairness when I am weary of sporting 
with lovers and fools? I will wed some mighty conqueror 
and be the queen and mistress of many nations !" 

In her superb vanity, she lifted her head higher as though 
she felt the imagined crown already on her brows, and stepped 
slowly backward from the mirror, still steadfastly regarding 
her own image, when all at once the sound of a hurried foot- 
fall in the corridor startled her. She turned in a listening 
attitude, her hair falling about her, and the pearls gleaming on 
her throat, the hasty footstep came nearer, then paused. 

" Madam ! Madam !" cried a voice outside. 

Moved by some swift instinct of alarm, she sprang forward 
and flung the door of her chamber wide open, thus confronting 
one of her father's servants who stared at her wildly, making 
dumb signs of despair. 

" What is it ?" she gasped, her lips had grown suddenly 
BtifF and dry and she could barely articulate, her heart beat 
violently, and the pearls about her neck seemed strangling 
her. 

The man opened his mouth to answer, then stopped, 
Judith clutched him by the arm. 

" Speak !" she whispered " What evil news hast thou?" 

" Madam," faltered the servant trembling " I dare not 



184 BARABBAS 

utter it, prithee come thy father sends have patience , . . 
take comfort" 

He turned from her, hiding his face. 

" 'Tis Judas I" she exclaimed " He is wounded ? ill ? He 
hath returned?" 

" Ay, madam, he hath returned !" replied the messenger 
hoarsely, and then, as if fearing to trust himself to the utter- 
ance of another word, he hastened away, mutely entreating 
her to follow. 

She paused a moment, a ghastly pallor stole away all the 
light and brilliancy of her features, and she pressed one hand 
upon her bosom to control its rising fear. 

"He hath returned I" she murmured vaguely "Judas is 
at home 1 My father sends for me ? then all is well, surely 
'tis well, it cannot be otherwise than well." 

Giving one glance backward into her moonlit room where 
the silver mirror shone like a glistening shield, she began to 
move with hesitating step through the corridor, then, all at 
once seized by an irresistible panic, she gathered up her trailing 
white robes in her hand and ran precipitately towards the great 
vestibule of the house, which her father had had built in the 
fashion of an Egyptian court, and where he was accustomed to 
Bit in the cool of the evening with his intimates and friends. 
It was surrounded with square columns and was open to the 
night, and as Judith came rushing along, her gold hair flying 
about her like flame and her dark eyes wild with uncertain 
terror and expectancy, she was confronted by the tall figure of 
a man who, with extended arms, strove to intercept himself 
between her and some passive object that lay, covered with a 
cloth, on the ground a few steps beyond. She gazed at him 
amazedly, it was Barabbas. 

"Judith!" he faltered " Judith, wait ! Have pa- 
tience" 

But she pushed him aside and ran towards her father whom 
she perceived leaning against one of the carven columns, his 
face hidden upon his arm. 

"Father !" she cried. 

He raised his head and looked at her, his austere fine 
features were convulsed by a speechless agony of grief, and 
with one trembling hand he pointed silently to the stirless 
covered shape that reposed at a little distance from him. Her 
eyes followed his gesture, and, staggering forward feebly step 
by step, she pushed back her hair from her brows and stared 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDF 185 

fixedly at the outline of the thing that was so solemnly inert. 
Then the full comprehension of what she saw seemed to burst 
in upon her brain, and falling upon her knees she clutched 
desperately at the rough cloth which concealed that which she 
craved, yet feared to see. 

" Judas !" she cried " Judas !" 

Her voice broke in a sharp shriek, and she suddenly with- 
drew her hands and looked at them in horror, shuddering, as 
though they had come in contact with some nameless abomina- 
tion. Lifting her eyes she became dimly conscious that others 
were around her, that her father had approached, that Ba- 
rabbas was gazing at her, and with a bewildered vacant smile 
she pointed to the hidden dead. 

" Why have ye brought him home thus wrapped from light 
and air ?" she demanded in quick jarring accents " It may be 
that he sleeps, or hath swooned. Uncover his face !" 

No one moved to obey her. The veiled corpse lying black 
and stirless in the full light of the moon had something solemnly 
forbidding in its aspect. And for one or two minutes a pro- 
found and awful stillness reigned, unbroken save by the slow 
chime of a bell striking the midnight hour. 

Suddenly Judith's voice began again, murmuring in rapid 
whispers. 

" Judas, Judas !" she said, "waken! 'Tis folly to lie 
there and fill me with such terrors, thou art not dead, it is 
not possible, thou could'st not die thus suddenly. Only last 
night thou earnest here full of a foolish rage against me, and 
in thy thoughtless frenzy thou did'st curse me, lo, now thou 
must unsay that curse, thou can'st not leave me unforgiven 
and unblessed. What have I ever done of harm to thee ? I 
did but bid thee prove the treachery of the ' Nazarene.' And 
thou hast proved it ; wherefore should'st thou grieve to find 
deception at an end ? Rise up, rise up ! if thou art ill 'tis I 
will tend thee, waken ! why should'st thou rest sullen thus 
and angry still? Surely 'tis I who should be angry at thy 
churlishness, for well I know thou hear'st my voice, though 
out of some sick humour, as it seems, thou wilt not answer 
me!" 

And once more her hands hovered hesitatingly in the air, till 
apparently nerving herself to a supreme effort, she took trem- 
bling hold of the upper part of the pall-like drapery that hid 
the corpse from view. Lifting it fearfully, she turned it back, 
slowly, slowly, then stared in horrid woudermeut, was that 
16* 



186 BARABBAS 

her brother's face she looked upon ? that fair, strange, pallid 
marble mask with those protruding desperate eyes? Such 
fixed impenetrable eyes ! they gave her wondering stare for 
stare, and as she stooped down close, and closer yet, her warm 
red lips went nigh to touch those livid purple ones which were 
drawn back tightly just above the teeth in the ghastly sem- 
blance of a smile. She stroked the damp and ice-cold brow, 
she thrust her fingers in the wild hair, it was most truly Judas 
or some dreadful likeness of him that lay there in waxen effigy, 
a white and frozen figure of dead youth and beauty, and 
yet she could not realise the awful truth of what she saw. 
Suddenly her wandering and distrustful gaze fell on his throat, 
a rope was round it, twisted in such a knot that where it 
pressed the flesh the skin was broken, and the bruised blood, 
oozing through, had dried and made a clotted crimson mark as 
though some jagged knife had hacked it. Beholding this, she 
leapt erect, and tossing her arms distractedly above her head, 
gave vent to a piercing scream that drove sharp discord through 
the air, and brought the servants of the household running in 
with torches in the wildest confusion and alarm. Her lather 
caught her in his arms, endeavouring to hold and pacify her, 
in vain ! he might as well have striven to repress a whirlwind. 
She was transformed into a living breathing fury, and writhed 
and twisted in his grasp, a convulsed figure of heart-rending 
despair. 

" Look you, they have murdered him !" she shrieked 
" They have murdered Judas ! he hath been violently slain 
by the followers of the * Nazareue' 1 cruel deed ! There 
shall be vengeance for it, vengeance deep and bitter, for 
Judas had no fault at all save that of honesty. Caiaphas ! 
Caiaphas ! Where is Caiaphas ? Bid him come hither and 
behold this work ! bid him pursue and crucify the murderers ! 
let us go seek the Roman governor, justice I say ! I will 
have justice" Here her shrill voice suddenly sank, and 
flinging herself desperately across her brother's body, she tried 
with shaking fingers to loosen the terrible death-noose of the 
strangling cord. 

" Undo this knot" she cried sobbingly " God ! will 
none of ye remove this pressure that doth stop his breath ? 
Maybe he lives yet ! his eyes have sense and memory in them. 
untie this twisted torture, prithee help me, friends, father, 
help me" 

Even as she spoke, with her fingers plucking at the cord, an 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 187 

awful change passed over her face, and snatching her hands 
away she looked at them aghast, they were wet with blood. 
A strange light kindled in her eyes, a wan smile hovered on 
her lips. She held up her stained fingers. 

" Lo, he bleeds 1" she said " The life within him rises to 
my touch, he is not dead 1" 

" He bleeds as dead men oft are wont to bleed at the touch 
of their murderers !" said a harsh voice suddenly, " Thou, 
Judith, hast brought thy brother to his death, wherefore his 
very blood accuses thee 1" 

And the rugged figure of Peter advancing, stood out clear in 
the moonbeams that fell showering on the open court. 

Iscariot, tall and stately, confronted him in wrath and 
astonishment. 

" Man, how darest thou at such a time thus rave upon my 
daughter" he began, then stopped, checked in his speech by 
the austere dignity of the disciple's attitude and his regal half- 
menacing gesture. 

" Back, Jew !" he said " Thou who art not born again of 
water or of spirit, but art ever of the tainted blood of Israel 
unregenerate, contest no words with me ! Remorse hath made 
me strong ! I am that Peter who denied his Master, and out 
of sin repented of I snatch authority ! Dispute me not, I 
speak not unto thee, but unto her ; she who doth clamour for 
swift justice on the murderers of her brother there. Even so 
do / cry out for justice ! even so do 1 demand vengeance ! 
vengeance upon her who drove him to his doom. For Judas 
was my friend, and by his own hand was he slain, but in 
that desperate deed no soul took part save she who now be- 
moans the end that hath been wrought through the tempting 
of her serpent subtilty !" 

" Hast thou no mercy ?" cried Barabbas in an agony, " Not 
even at this hour?" 

" Not at this hour nor at any hour !" responded Peter with 
fierce triumph lighting up his features, ' God forbid that I 
should show any mercy to the wicked !" 

" There spoke tbe first purely human Christian !" murmured 
a low satirical voice, and the picturesque form of Melchior 
shadowed itself against a marble column whitened by the 
moon "Verily, Petrus, thou shalt convey to men in a new 
form the message of Love Divine !" 

But the disciple heeded not these words. He strode forward 
to where Judith lay half prone across her brother's corpse, stiH 



188 BARABBA9 

busying herself with efforts to untie the suicidal noose at the 
throat, that was now darkly moist with blood. 

"What doest thou there, Judith Iscariot?" he demanded 
" Thou can'st never unfasten that hempen necklet, 'tis not 
of pearls or sparkling gems such as thy soul loveth, and 
Judas himself hath knotted it too closely for easy severance. 
Let be, let be, weep and lament for thine own treachery, 
for behold a curse shall fall upon thee, never to be lifted from 
thy life again!" 

She heard, and raising her eyes which were dry and glit- 
tering with fever, smiled at him. So wildly beautiful did she 
look, that Peter though wrought up to an exaltation of wrath, 
was for a moment staggered by the bewildering loveliness of 
her perfect face showered round by its wealth of red-gold hair, 
and hesitated to pronounce the malediction that hovered on 
his lips. 

"Never again, never again" she murmured vaguely 
" See !" And she showed him her blood-stained fingers " Life 
lingers in him yet ! ah, prithee, friend" and she gazed up 
at him appealingly " Undo the cruel cord ! if Judas tied 
it, ... did' st thou not tell me Judas tied it? . . . how could 
that be ?" She paused, a puzzled look knitting her brows, 
then a sudden terror began to shake her limbs. 

" Father !" she exclaimed. 

He hastened to her, and lifting her up, pressed her against 
his breast, the tears raining down his face. 

" What does it mean ?" she faltered, gazing at him alarm- 
edly " Tell me, it is not true, ... it cannot be true, 
Judas was ever brave and bold, he did not wreak this vio- 
lence upon himself?" 

Iscariot strove to answer her, but words failed him, the 
wonted calmness of his austerely handsome features was com- 
pletely broken up by misery and agitation. She, however, 
gazing fully at him, understood at last, and, wrenching her- 
self out of his arms, stood for a moment immovable and 
ghastly pale, as though suddenly turned to stone. Then, 
lifting her incardined hands in the bright moon-rays, she 
broke into a discordant peal of delirious laughter. 

" terrible Nazarene !" she cried " This is thy work ! Thy 
sorceries have triumphed ! thou hast thy victory ! Thou art 
avenged in full, thou pitiless treacherous Nazarene 1" 

And with a sharp shriek that seemed to stab the stillness 
with a wound, she fell forward on the pavement in a swoon, as 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 189 

lost to sense and sight as the body of Judas, that with its fixed 
wide-open eyes stared blindly outward into nothingness and 
smiled. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

THEY carried her to her own chamber and left her to the 
ministrations of her women, who wept for her as women will 
often weep when startled by the news of some tragic event 
which does not personally concern them, without feeling any 
real sympathy with the actual cause of sorrow. Her haughty 
and arrogant disposition had made her but few friends among 
her own sex, and her peerless beauty had ever been a source of 
ill-will and envy to others less dazzlingly fair. So that the very 
maidens who tended her in her fallen pride and bitter heart- 
break, though they shed tears for pure nervousness, had little 
love in their enforced care, and watched her in her deep swoon 
with but casual interest, only whispering vague guesses one to 
another as to what would be her possible condition when she 
again awoke to consciousness. 

Meanwhile her brother's corpse was reverently placed on two 
carved and gilded trestles set in an arched recess of the open 
court, and draped with broideries of violet and gold. In stern 
silence and constrained composure, the unhappy father of the 
dead man gave his formal instructions, and fulfilled in every 
trifling particular the duties that devolved upon him, and 
when all had been done that was demanded of him for the im- 
mediate moment, he turned towards those three who had brought 
home the body of his son between them, Barabbas, Melchior, 
and the disciple Peter. 

" Sirs," he said in a low voice broken by emotion " I have 
to thank ye for the sorrowful service ye have rendered me, 
albeit it hath broken my heart and hath visited upon our house 
such mourning as shall never cease. Only one of ye am I in 
any sort acquainted with, and that is Barabbas, lately the 
prisoner of the law. In former days he hath been welcomed 
here and deemed a worthy man and true, and now, despite his 
well-proved crimes and shame of punishment, I can but bear 
in mind that once he was my son's companion in the house of 
El-Shadeen." Here his accents faltered, but he controlled him- 
self and went on " Wherefore, excusing not his faults, I yet 



190 BAR ABB AS 

would say that even as the people have released him, I cannot 
visit him with censure, inasmuch as he hath evident pity for 
my grief and did appeal for my beloved child against the 
mercilessness of this stranger." 

Pausing, he turned his eyes upon Peter, who met his gaze 
boldly. 

" Stranger I truly am from henceforth to the Jews" said 
the disciple, " Naught have I in common with their lives, 
spent in the filthy worship of Mammon and the ways of usury. 
Nevertheless I compassionate thy fate, Iscariot, as I compas- 
sionate the fate of any wretched man stricken with woes in- 
numerable through his own blindness and unbelief; and as 
for mercilessness whereof thou dost accuse me, thou shalt find 
the Truth ever as a sword inclement, sharp to cut away all 
pleasingly delusive forms. When thou dost speak of thy be- 
loved child, thou dost betray the weakness of thy life, for from 
thy nest of over-pampering and indulgent love hath risen a 
poison snake to sting and slay 1 A woman left unguarded aud 
without authority upon her is even as a devil that destroys, 
a virgin given liberty of will is soon deflowered. Knowest 
thou not thy Judith is a wanton ? and that thy ravening high- 
priest Caiaphas hath made of her a viler thing than ever was 
the city's Magdalen ? Ah, strike an' thou wilt, Iscariot ! the 
truth is on my lips ! tear out my tongue and thou shalt find 
the truth still there !" 

Speechless with wrath, Iscariot made one fierce stride towards 
him with full intent to smite him across the mouth as the only 
fitting answer to his accusation, but as he raised his threatening 
hand, the straight unquailing look of the now almost infuriate 
disciple, struck him with a sudden supernatural awe and he 
paused, inert. 

" The truth, the truth !" cried Peter, tossing his arms about 
" Lo, from henceforth I will clamour for it, rage for it, live 
for it, die for it ! Three times have I falsely sworn, and thus 
have I taken the full measure of a Lie 1 Its breadth, its depth, 
its height, its worth, its meaning, its result, its crushing suffo- 
cating weight upon the soul 1 I know its nature 'tis all hell 
in a word ! 'tis a ' yea' or ' nay' on which is balanced all eter- 
nity I I will no more of it, I will have truth, the truth of 
men, the truth of women, no usurer shall be called honest, 
fft wanton shall be called chaste, to please the humour of the 
/tassing hour! No no I will have none of this but only 
truth 1 the truth that is even as a shining naked scimitar in 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 19J 

the hand of God, glittering horribly ! I, Peter, will declare 
it ! I who did swear a lie three times, will speak the truth 
three thousand times in reprisal of my sin ! Weep, rave, tear 
thy reverend hairs, unreverent Jew, thou, who as stiffnecked 
righteous Pharisee did'st practise cautious virtue and self- 
seeking sanctity, and now through unbelief, art left most deso- 
late I Would'st stake a world upon thy daughter's honour ? 
Fie I 'tis dross ! 'tis common ware, purchaseable for gold and 
gewgaws ! Lo, through this dazzling woman-snare born of thy 
blood, a God hath perished in Judaea ! His words have been 
rejected, His message is despised, His human life hath been 
roughly torn from Him by torture. Therefore upon Judaea 
shall the curse be wrought through ages following endless ages, 
and as the children of the house of Israel do worship gold, 
even so shall gold be their damnation ! Like base slaves shall 
they toil, for kings and counsellors ; even as brutish beasts 
shall they be harnessed to the wheels of work, and drag the 
heavier burdens of the State beneath the whip and scourge, 
despised and loathed they shall labour for others, in bondage. 
Scattered through many lands their tribes shall be, and never- 
more shall they be called a nation 1 For ever and for ever 
shall the sinless blood of the Messenger of God rest red upon 
Judaea ! for ever and for ever from this day, shall Israel be cast 
out from the promises of life eternal, a scorn and abomina- 
tion in the sight of Heaven !" 

He paused, breathless, his hands uplifted as though invoking 
doom. His rough cloak fell away from his shoulders in almost 
regal folds, displaying his coarse fisherman's dress beneath, 
his figure seemed to grow taller and statelier, investing itself 
with a kind of mystic splendour in the shining radiance of the 
moon. Lifting his eyes to the stars twinkling like so many 
points of flame above him, he smiled, a wild and wondering smile. 

" But the end is not yet !" he said " There is a new terror 
and trembling, that doth threaten the land. For ye have 
murdered the Christ without slaying Him ! ye have forced 
Him to suffer death, but He is not dead ! To-night He is 
buried, shut down in the gloom of the grave, what will ye 
do if the great stones laid above Him have no force to keep 
Him down ? what if the earth will not hold Him ? what if, 
after three days, as He said, He should rise to life again ? I 
will aver nothing, I will not again swear falsely, I will shut 
my doubts and terrors in mine own soul and say no more, but 
think of it, ye unregenerate of Israel, what will ye do in 



192 BARABBAS 

the hour of trembling if He, whom ye think dead, doth in 
very truth arise to life ?" 

His voice sank to a whisper, he glanced about him ner- 
vously, then, as though seized by some sudden panic, he 
covered himself shudderingly up in his mantle so that his face 
could hardly be seen, and began to steal away cautiously on 
tip-toe. 

" Think of it !" he repeated, looking back once at Iscariot 
with a wild stare " Perchance He may pardon Judas ! Nay, 
I know nothing I will swear nothing, nevertheless 'twill be 
a strange world, 'twill be an altogether different, marvellous 
world if He should keep His word, and after three days no 
more, no less, He should arise again !" 

And still moving as one in fear, shrouded in his cloak and 
stepping noiselessly, he turned abruptly and disappeared. 

Iscariot gazed after him in mingled anger and perplexity. 

" Is it some madman ye have brought hither ?" he demanded 
" What manner of devil doth possess him?" 

" The devil of a late remorse," answered Melchior slowly 
" It doth move a man ofttimes to most singular raving, and 
doth frequently inspire him to singular deeds. The devil in 
this fisherman will move the world !" 

"Fisherman?" echoed Iscariot wonderingly "Is he no 
more than common ?" 

" No more than common," replied Melchior, his eyes 
dilating singularly " Common as clay ! Herein will be his 
failure and his triumph. The scent of the sea was round him 
at his birth, from very boyhood he hath contended with the 
raging winds and waters, so shall he yet contend with similarly 
warring elements. No kings ever travelled from afar to kneel 
before him in his cradle, no Eastern sages proffered gifts to 
honour him, no angels sang anthems for him in the sky, 
these things were for the ' Nazarene' whom lately he denied, 
but whom he now will serve most marvellously I But, for the 
present, as the time now goes, he is but Simon Peter, one of 
the fisher-folk of Galilee, and lately a companion of thy dead 
son, Judas." 

A smothered groan escaped Iscariot's lips as his eyes wan- 
dered to the extemporised bier on which the corpse of Judas 
lay. 

" Unhappy boy !" he murmured " No wonder thou wert 
fanatic and wild, consorting with such friends as these !" 

He went and stood by the covered body, and there, looking 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 193 

round towards his visitors with an air of sorrowful and re- 
signed dignity, said, 

" Ye will not take it ill of me, sirs, that I entreat ye now to 
leave me. The grief I have is almost too great to grasp, 
my spirit is broken with mourning, and I am very weary. As 
for my daughter, thou, Barabbas, needest not that I should 
tell thee of the falsity of the slander brought against her by 
yon mad disciple of a mad reformer. Thou knowest her, 
her innocence, her pride, her spotless virtue, and to the friend 
thou hast with thee, thou wilt defend her honour and pure 
chastity. Thou nearest me ?" 

" I hear thee" answered Barabbas in a choked voice 
" And verily my whole heart aches for thee, Iscariot 1" 

The elder man looked at him keenly and trembled. 

" I thank thee, friend I" he then said quickly " Thou hast 
been guilty of heinous crimes, but nevertheless I know thou 
hast manliness enough, and wilt, as far as lies within thy 
power, defend my child from scurrilous talk, such as this 
coarse-tongued Galilean fisherman may set current in the 
town." He paused as though he were thinking deeply, then 
beckoned Barabbas to approach him more closely. As his 
gesture was obeyed, he laid one hand on his son's veiled corpse 
and the other on Barabbas's arm. 

" Understand me well 1" he said in a fierce hoarse whisper 
" If there were a grain of truth in that vile slander, I would 
kill Caiaphas ! yea, by this dead body of mine only son I 
swear I would slay him before all the people in the very pre- 
cincts of the Temple 1" 

In that one moment his face was terrible, and the sombre 
eyes of Barabbas glittered a swift response to his thought. 
'For a brief space the two men looked at each other steadily, 
and to Barabbas's excited fancy it seemed as if at the utter- 
ance of Iscariot's oath, the body of Judas trembled slightly 
underneath its heavy wrappings. One second, and the sudden 
flash of furious comprehension that had lighted their dark 
features as with fire, passed, and the bereaved father bent his 
head in ceremonious salutation. 

" Farewell, sirs," he said, bidding Barabbas retreat from 
him by a slight commanding sign " What poor thanks a 
broken-hearted man can give are yours for bringing home my 
dead. I will see ye both again, a few days hence, when 
the bitterness of grief is somewhat quelled, when I am 

stronger, better fitted for reasonable speech, but now" 

I r 17 



194 BARABBAS 

He waved his hand in dismissal, and drawing his mantle 
round him, sat down by his son's corpse, to keep an hour's 
melancholy vigil. 

Barabbas at once retired with Melchior, only pausing on his 
way out to inquire of a passing servant if Judith had recov- 
ered from her swoon. He received an answer in the negative, 
given with tears and doleful shaking of the head, and with a 
heavy heart, he left the house and passed into the moonlit 
street. There, after walking a little way, Melchior suddenly 
stopped, fixing his jewel-like contemplative eyes upon the 
brooding face of his companion. 

" Dreamest thou, good ruffian, of the beauty of thy lost 
Judith ?" he said " I confess to thee I never saw a fairer 
woman ! Even her sorrow doth enhance her loveliness." 

Barabbas shuddered. 

" Why speak to me now of her beauty ?" he demanded pas- 
sionately " Hath it not wrought sufficient havoc ? Think of 
the dead Judas !" 

" Truly I do think of him" responded Melchior gravely 
" All the world will think of him, he will never be forgotten. 
Unhappy youth ! for history will make him answerable for 
sins that are not all his own. But the chronicles of men are 
not the chronicles of God, and even Judas shall have justice 
in the end. Meantime" and he smiled darkly " knowest 
thou, good Barabbas, I am troubled by a singular presentiment ? 
Poverty doth not oppress me, nevertheless I swear unto thee, 
I would not in these days stake a penny piece upon the value 
of the life of Caiaphas. What thinkest thou ?" 

Barabbas stared at him, aghast and breathing quickly. And 
for a moment they remained so, gazing full at one another in 
the paling radiance of the sinking moon, then walked on 
together, homeward, in silence. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

TOWARDS three o'clock in the dawn of the Jewish Sabbath, 
Judith Iscariot awoke from her heavy stupor of merciful un- 
consciousness. Opening her eyes, she gazed about her bewil- 
deredly, and gradually recognised her surroundings. She was 
in her own room, the casement was closed and lamps were burn- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 195 

ing, and at the foot of her couch sat two of her waiting- 
women sunk in a profound slumber. Lifting herself cautiously 
upon her pillows, she looked at them wonderingly, then 
peered round on all sides to see if any others were near. No, 
there was no one, only those two maids fast asleep. 
Gathering together her disordered garments, and twisting up 
her hair in a loose knot, she noiselessly arose and stepping 
down from her couch, moved across the room till she faced 
her mirror. There she paused and smiled wildly at herself, 
how strange her eyes looked 1 ... hut how bright, how 
beautiful 1 The pearls Barabbas had given her long ago, 
gleamed on her throat, she fingered them mechanically, 
poor Barabbas ! certainly he had loved her in days gone by. 
But since then many things had happened, wonderful and 
confusing things, and now there was only one thing left to 
remember, that after long absence and unkind estrangement 
Judas was once more at home ! Yes ! Judas was at home, 
and she would go and see him and talk to him, and clear 
up whatever foolish misunderstanding there had been between 
them. Her head swam giddily, and she felt a feebleness in 
all her limbs, shudders of icy cold ran through her, followed 
by waves of heat that sickened and suffocated her, but she 
paid little heed to these sensations, her one desire to see Judas 
overpowering all physical uneasiness. She fastened her white 
robe more securely about her with a gold-embroidered girdle, 
and catching sight of her ornamental dagger where it lay on 
a table close by, she attached it to her waist. Then she 
glanced anxiously round at her two women, they still slept. 
Stepping needfully on tip-toe, she passed easily out of her 
room, for the door had been left open for air, and there was 
only the curtain at the archway to quietly lift and let fall. 
Tottering a little as she walked, she glided along the corridor, 
a white figure with a spectral pale face and shining eyes, 
she felt happy and light-hearted, almost she could have 
sung a merry song, so singularly possessed by singular joy was 
she. Reaching the open-air court she stopped, gazing eagerly 
from side to side, its dim quadrangle was full of flickering 
lights and shadows, for the moon had disappeared behind the 
frowning portico, leaving but a silvery trail upon the sky to 
faintly mark her recent passage among the stars. Everything 
was very still, no living creature was visible save a little 
downy owl that flew with a plaintive cry in and out among 
the marble columns calling to its mate with melancholy per- 



196 BARABBAS 

sistence. The bereaved Iscariot, wearied out by grief, had 
but just retired to snatch some sorely-needed rest, and the 
body of his hapless son laid out beneath its violet pall, pos- 
sessed to itself the pallid hour of the vanishing night and the 
coming morn. Judith's softly sandalled feet made a delicate 
sound like the pattering of falling leaves, as she moved some- 
what unsteadily over the pavement, groping in the air now 
and then with her hands as though she were blind. Very 
soon her perplexed and wandering gaze found what she sought, 
the suggestive dark mass of drapery under which reposed 
all that was mortal of her brother, the elder companion and 
confidant of her childhood who had loved her with a tender- 
ness " passing that of women." She hurried her steps and 
almost ran, and without any hesitation or fear, turned back 
all the coverings till the face and the whole form of the dead 
Judas lay before her, stark and stiff, the rope still fastened round 
the neck in dreadful witness of the deed that had been done. 
Terribly beautiful he seemed in that pale semi-radiance of the 
sky, austerely grand, with something of a solemn scorn 
upon his features, and an amazing world of passionate appeal 
in his upward gazing eyes. "Call ye me a traitor?" he 
mutely said to the watchful stars " Lo, in the days to come, 
there shall be among professing saints many a worse than I !" 

His sister looked at him curiously, with an expression of 
wild inquisitiveness, but she neither wept nor trembled. A 
fixed idea was in her distracted brain, undefined and fantastic, 
but such as it was she was bent upon it. With a strange 
triumph lighting up her eyes, she drew her jewelled dagger 
from its sheath, and with deft care cut asunder the rope round 
the throat of the corpse. As she pulled it cautiously away, 
the blood again oozed slowly forth from beneath the bruised 
skin, this was mysterious and horrible, and terrified her a 
little, for she shuddered from head to foot. Anon she smiled, 
and twisting the severed cord, stained and moist as it was, 
in and out the embroidered girdle at her own waist, she threw 
the dagger far from her into a corner of the quadrangle, and 
clapped her hands delightedly. 

" Judas !" she exclaimed " Lo ! I have cut the cruel rope 
wherewith thou wast wounded, now thou can'st breathe 1 
Come I rise up and speak to me ! Tell me all I will believe 
all thy marvellous histories 1 I will not say that thou art wrongly 
led, if thou wilt only smile again and speak, I will pardon 
all thy foolish fancy for the teachings of the ' Nazarene.' 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDF 197 

Thou knowest I would not drive thee to despair, I would noi 
even willingly offend thee, I am thy little sister always who 
is dear to thee. Judas listen ! 'Twas Caiaphas, 'twas the 
high-priest himself who bade me to tell thee to betray thy 
Master, and very rightly for thy mad prophet came in arms 
against our creed. Why should'st thou turn rebellious and 
forsake the faith of all our fathers? Come, rise and hear 
reason 1" and with the unnatural force of a deepening frenzy, 
she bent down and partly raised the corpse, staring at its 
fearful countenance with mingled love and horror " Why, 
how thou lookest at me ! with what cold unpiteous eyes ? 
What have I done to thee ? Naught, save advise thee wisely. 
As for Caiaphas, thou knowest not Caiaphas how much he 
can do for thee if thou wilt show some fitting penitence"- 
here she broke off with a kind of half-shriek, the weight of 
the dead body was too much for her and lurched backward, 
dragging her with it, she loosened her arms from about it, 
and it straightway fell heavily prone in its former position. 
She began to sob childishly. 

" Judas, Judas 1 Speak tome! Kiss me! I know thou 
nearest me and wilt not answer me for anger, because this 
stranger out of Nazareth is dearer unto thee than I !" 

She waited in evident expectation of some response, then, 
as the silence remained unbroken, she began to play with the 
blood-stained rope at her girdle. 

" Ah well !" she sighed " I am sorry thou art sullen. 
Caiaphas would do great things for thee if thou wert wise. 
Why should'st thou thus grow desperate because of a traitor's 
death? What manner of man was this much-marvelled-at 
' Nazarene' ? Naught but a workman's son, possessed of strange 
fanaticism ! And shall so small a thing sow rancour 'twixt us 
twain ? Yet surely I will humour thee if still to humour Him 
should be thy fancy, thou shalt have cross and crown made 
sacred an' thou wilt, I can do no more in veriest kindness to 
appease thy wrath, moreover thou dost maintain a useless 
churlishness, since thy ' Nazarene' ia dead, and cannot, even to 
please thee and amend thy sickness, rise again." 

Again she paused, then commenced pacing to and fro in 
the shadowy court looking about her vaguely. Presently spying 
her dagger where she had lately flung it in a corner, she picked 
it up and returned it to its sheath which still hung at her waist, 
then she pulled down a long trail of climbing roses from the 
wall, and came to lay them on the breast of the irrespousivo 
17* 



198 BARABBAS 

dead. As she approached, a sudden brilliant luminance af- 
frighted her, she started back, one hand involuntarily uplifted 
to shade her eyes. A Cross of light, deep red and dazzling as 
fire, hovered horizontally in the air immediately above the 
body of Judas, spreading its glowing rays outward on every 
side. She beheld it with amazement, it glittered before her 
more brightly than the brightest sunbeams, her fevered and 
wandering wits, not yet quite gone, recognised it as some 
miracle beyond human comprehension, and on the merest im- 
pulse she stretched forth her hands full of the just gathered 
rose- clusters in an effort to touch that lustrous, living flame. 
As she did so, a blood-like hue fell on her, she seemed to be 
enveloped in a crimson mist that stained the whiteness of her 
garments and the fairness of her skin, and cast a ruddier tint 
than nature placed among the loosened tresses of her hair. 
The very roses that she held blushed into scarlet, while the 
wazen pallid features of the dead, had for a little space a glow 
as of returning life. For one or two minutes the mystic glory 
blazed, then vanished, leaving the air dull and heavy with a 
sense of loss. And Judith standing paralysed with wonder, 
watched it disappear, and saw at the same time that a change 
had taken place in the aspect of her self-slain brother. The 
lips that had been drawn apart in the last choking agony of 
death were pressed together in a solemn smile, the eyes that 
had stared aloft so fearfully were closed. Seeing this, she 
began to weep and laugh hysterically, and flinging her rose- 
garland across the still figure, she stooped and kissed that ice- 
cold smiling mouth. 

" Judas, Judas !" she said in smothered sobbing accents 
"Now thou art gone to sleep, without a word, without a 
blessing,- thou wilt not even look at me 1 Ah cruel ! never- 
theless I do forgive thee, for surely thou art very weary, else 
thou would'st not lie here so quietly beneath the stars. I will 
let thee sleep on, I will not wake thee till the morning dawns. 
At full daybreak I will come again and see that all is well with 
thee, thou churlish one ! good-night 1" and she waved kisses 
to the dead man smilingly with the tears blinding her eyes 
" Good-night, my brother ! I will return soon and bring thee 
news yea, I will bring thee pleasing news of Caiaphas, . . . 
good- night I ... sleep well !" 

And still waving fond and fantastic salutations, she moved 
backward lightly on tip-toe step by step, her gaze fixed to tho 
last on the now composed and beauteous face of the corpse, 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 199 

then passing under the great portico, she noiselessly unfastened 
the gate, and wandered out in all her distracted and dishevelled 
beauty into the silent streets of the city alone. 



CHAPTER XXXL 

THE full Sabbath morning broke in unclouded loveliness, 
and all the people of Jerusalem flocked to the gorgeous Temple 
on Mount Moriah to see and to be seen, and to render their 
formal thanks to the most High Jehovah for their escape from 
all the threatening horrors of the previous day. Some there 
were who added to their prayers the unconscious blasphemy of 
asking God to pardon them for having allowed the " Nazarene" 
to live even so long as He had done seeing that His doctrines 
were entirely opposed to the spirit and the faith of the nation. 
Yet, all the same, a singular lack of fervour marked the solemn 
service, notwithstanding that in the popular opinion there was 
everything to be thankful for. The veil of the "Holy of 
Holies," rent in the midst, hung before the congregation as a 
sinister reminder of the terrors of the past thunder-storm, 
earthquake and deep darkness ; and the voice of the high-priest 
Caiaphas grew wearily monotonous and indistinct long before 
the interminable morning ritual was ended. Something seemed 
missing, there appeared to be no longer any meaning in the 
usually imposing " reading of the law," there was a vacancy 
and dulness in the whole ceremonial which left a cold and 
cheerless impression upon the minds of all. When the crowd 
poured itself forth again from the different gates, many groups 
wended their way out of sheer curiosity to the place where 
the "Prophet of Nazareth" was now ensepulchred, for the 
story of Joseph of Arimathea's "boldly" going to claim the 
body from Pilate, and the instant vigilance of Caiaphas in 
demanding that a watch should be set round the tomb, had 
already been widely rumoured thoughout the city. 

" We never h^ad a more discreet and shrewd high-priest," 
said one man, pausing in the stately King's Portico to readjust 
the white linen covering on his head more carefully before 
stepping out into the unshaded heat and glare of the open 



200 BARABBAS 

road, " He hath conducted this matter with rare wisdom, for 
surely the ' Nazarene's' disciples would have stolen His body, 
rather than have Him proved a false blasphemer for the second 
time." 

" Ay, thou sayest truly I" answered his companion " And 
the whole crew of them are in Jerusalem at this time, an 
ill-assorted dangerous rabble of the common folk of Galilee. 
Were I Caiaphas, I would find means of banishing these 
rascals from the city under pain of death." 

" One hath banished himself" said the first speaker, 
" Thou hast doubtless heard of the end of young Judas 
Iscariot ?" 

The other man nodded. 

" Judas was mad," he said, " Nothing in life could satisfy 
him, he was ever prating of reforms and clamouring for truth. 
Such fellows are not fitted for the world." 

" Verily he must himself have come to that conclusion" 
remarked his friend with a grave smile, as he slowly descended 
the Temple steps, " and so thinking, left the world with most 
determined will. He was found hanging to the branch of a 
tree close by the garden of Gethsemane, and last night his body 
was borne home to his father's house." 

" But have ye heard no later news?" chimed in another man 
who had listened to the little conversation, " Iscariot hath 
had another grief which hath driven him well-nigh distracted. 
He hath lost his chiefest treasure, his pampered and too-much 
beloved daughter, and hath been to every neighbour seeking 
news of her and finding none. She hath left him in the night 
suddenly, and whither she hath gone no one can tell." 

By this time the group of gossips had multiplied, and startled 
wondering looks were exchanged among them all. 

" His daughter 1" echoed a bystander " Surely 'tis not 
possible! The proud Judith? Wherefore should she have 
fled ?" 

" Who can say ! She swooned last night at seeing her dead 
brother, and was carried unconscious to her bed. There her 
maidens watched her, but in their watching, slept, and when 
at last they wakened, she was gone." 

The listeners shook their heads dubiously as not knowing 
what to make of it; and murmuring vague expressions of 
compassion for Iscariot, " a worthy man and wealthy, who 
deserved not this affliction," as they said, went slowly, talking 
aa they went, homeward on their various ways. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 201 

Meanwhile, a considerable number of people had gathered 
together in morbid inquisitiveness round the guarded burial- 
place of the " Nazarene." It was situate in a wild and pictur- 
esque spot between two low hills, covered with burnt brown 
turf and bare of any foliage, and in itself presented the 
appearance of a cave deeply hollowed out in the natural rock. 
Rough attempts at outward adornment had been made in the 
piling-up of a few sparkling blocks of white granite in pyra- 
midal form on the summit, and these glittered just now like 
fine crystals in the light of the noonday sun. The square cut- 
ting that served as entrance to the tomb was entirely closed by 
a huge stone fitting exactly into the aperture, and between 
this stone and the rock itself was twisted a perfect network of 
cords, sealed in about a hundred places with the great seal of 
the Sanhedrim council. Round the sepulchre, on every side 
were posted the watch, consisting of about fifteen soldiers picked 
out from a special band of one hundred, and headed by a 
formidable-looking centurion of muscular build and grim 
visage, who, as the various groups of idle spectators approached 
to look at the scene, eyed them with fierce disfavour. 

" By the gods !" he growled to one of his men " What a 
filthy and suspicious race are these cursed Jews ! Lo you, how 
they sneak hither staring and whispering ! Who knows but 
they think we ourselves may make away with the body of the 
man they crucified yesterday ! Worthily do they match their 
high-priest in cautious cowardice ! Never was such a panic 
about a corpse before 1" 

And he tramped to and fro sullenly in front of the tomb, 
his lance and helmet gleaming like silver in the light, the while 
he kept his eyes obstinately fixed on the ground determined not 
to honour by so much as a glance the scattered sightseers who 
loitered aimlessly about, staring without knowing what they 
stared at, but satisfied at any rate in their own minds, that 
here assuredly there was no pretence at keeping a watch, 
these were real soldiers, unimaginative callous men for whom 
the " Nazarene" was no more than a Jew reformer who had 
met his death by the ordinance of the law. 

By and by as the sun grew hotter, the little knots of people 
dispersed, repeating to one another as they sauntered along, 
the various wonderful stories told of the miracles worked by 
the dead " Prophet out of Nazareth I" 

" How boldly he faced Pilate I" said one. 

" Ay ! and how grandly he died 1" 



202 BARABBAS 

" 'Tis ever the way with such fellows as he" declared 
another " They run uiad with much thinking, and death is 
nothing to them, for they believe that they will live again." 

So conversing, and alluding occasionally to the tragic inci- 
dents that had attended the sublime death-scene on Calvary, 
they strolled citywards, and only one of all the straggling spec- 
tators was left behind, a man in the extreme of age, bent and 
feeble and wretchedly clad, who supported himself on a crutch 
and lingered near the sepulchre, casting timorous and appealing 
glances at the men on guard. Galbus, the centurion, observed 
him and frowned angrily. 

" What doest thou here, thou Jew skeleton ?" he demanded 
roughly " Off with thee 1 Bring not thy sores and beggary 
into quarters with the soldiers of Home." 

" Sir, sir" faltered the old man anxiously " I ask no 
alms. I do but seek thy merciful favour to let me lay my 
hands upon the stone of yonder tomb, . . . once, only once, 
good sir ! the little maid is sorely ailing, and methinks to 
touch the stone and pray there would surely heal her sick- 
ness" He broke off, trembling all over and stretching out 
his wrinkled hands wistfully. 

Galbus stared contemptuously. 

What dost thou jabber of?" ho asked" The little maid ? 
what little maid ? And what avail this touching of a stone ? 
Thou'rt in thy dotage, man ; get hence and cure thy wits, 
'tis they that should be healed right speedily !" 

" Sir 1" cried the old man almost weeping " The little maid 
trill die 1 Look you, good soldier, 'tis but a week agone that 
He who lies within that tomb, did take her in His arms and 
bless her ; she is but three years old and passing fair. And 
now she hath been stricken with the fever, and methought 
could I but touch the stone of yonder sepulchre and say 
' Master, I pray thee heal the child,' He, though He be dead, 
would hear and answer me. For He was ever pitiful for sor- 
row, and He was gentle with the little maid." 

Galbus flushed red, there was a strange contraction in his 
throat of which he did not approve, and there was also a burning 
moisture in his eyes which was equally undesired. Something 
in this piteous old man's aspect, as well as the confiding sim- 
plicity of his faith touched the fierce soldier to an emotion of 
which he was ashamed. Raising his lance he beckoned him 
nearer. 

" Come hither, thou aged madman," he said with affected 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 203 

roughness " Keep close to me, under my lifted lance, thou 
mayest lay hands upon the stone for one brief minute, take 
heed thou break not the Sanhedrim seals ! And let thy prayer 
for thy little maid be of most short duration, though take my 
word for it thou art a fool to think that a dead man hath ears 
to hearken thy petition. Nevertheless, come." 

Stumbling along and breathless with eagerness the old man 
obeyed. Close to the sacred sepulchre he came, Galbus guarding 
his every movement with vigilant eye, and humbly kneel- 
ing down before the sealed stone he laid his aged hands 
upon it. 

"Lord, if thou wilt" he said "Thou canst save the little 
maid 1 Say but the word and she is healed." 

One minute he knelt thus, then he rose with a glad light 
in his dim old eyes. 

" Most humbly do I thank thee, sir !" he said to the cen- 
turion, uncovering his white locks and bowing meekly " May 
God reward thee for thy mercy unto me !" 

Galbus gazed at him curiously from under his thick black 
eyebrows. 

" Of what province art thou?" 

" Sir, of Samaria." 

" And thinkest thou in very truth thou hast obtained a 
miracle from that tomb ?" 

" Sir, I know nothing of the secret ways divine. But sure 
I am the little maid is saved. God be with thee, soldier 1 ... 
God guide thy lance and evermore defend thee !" 

And with many expressive salutations of gratitude he tot- 
tered away. 

Galbus looked after him meditatively, till his thin raggedly- 
clothed figure had fluttered out of sight like a fluttering with- 
ered leaf, then the grim Roman shook his head profoundly, 
pulled his beard, laughed, frowned, passed his hand across his 
eyes, and finally, having conquered whatever momentary soft 
emotion had possessed him, glanced about him severely and sus- 
piciously to see that all his men were in their several places. 
The noonday heat and glare had compelled them to move into 
their tents which were ranged all round the sepulchre in an 
even snowy ring, and Galbus, seeing this, quickly followed 
their example, and himself retired within the shelter of his 
own particular pavilion. This was pitched directly opposite the 
stone which closed the mystic tomb, and as the burly cen- 
turion sat down and lifted his helmet to wipe his hot face, ho 



204 BARABBAS 

muttered an involuntary curse on the sultriness and barren soil 
of Judaea, and wished himself heartily back in Rome. 

" For this is a country of fools" he soliloquised " And 
worse still 'tis a country of cowards. These Jews were afraid 
of the ' Nazarene' as they call Him, while He lived ; and now 
it seems they are more afraid of Him still when He is dead. 
Well, well ! 'tis a thing to laugh at, a Roman will kill his 
enemy, true enough, but being killed he will salute the corpse 
and leave it to the gods without further fear or passion." 

At that moment an approaching stealthy step startled him. 
He sprang up, shouldered his lance and stood in the doorway of 
his tent expectant ; a tall man muffled in a purple cloak con- 
fronted him, it was Caiaphas who surveyed him austerely. 

" Dost thou keep good watch, centurion ?" he demanded. 

" My vigilance hath never been questioned, sir," responded 
Galbus stiffly. 

Caiaphas waved his hand deprecatingly. 

" I meant not to offend thee, soldier, but there are knaves 
about, and I would have thee wary." 

He dropped his mantle, disclosing a face that was worn and 
haggard with suffering and want of sleep, then, stepping close 
up to the sepulchre he narrowly examined all the seals upon 
the stone. They were as he had left them on the previous 
evening, untouched, unbroken. 

" Hast thou heard any sound ?" he asked in a whisper. 

Galbus stared. 

" From within yonder ?" he said, pointing with his lance at 
the tomb " Nay ! never have I heard voice proceed from any 
dead man yet." 

Caiaphas forced a smile, nevertheless he bent his ear 
against the stone and listened. 

" What of the night ?" he queried anxiously " Were ye 
interrupted in your first watch ?" 

"By the baying of dogs at the moon, and the hooting of 
owls only" replied Galbus disdainfully, " And such inter- 
ruptions, albeit distasteful, are not to be controlled." 

" I meant not these things" said Caiaphas, turning upon 
him vexedly " I thought the women might have lingered, 
making lamentation" 

" Women have little chance where I am," growled Galbus, 
" True, they did linger, till I sent them off. Yet I treated 
them with kindness for they were weeping sorely, foolish souls, 
the sight of death doth ever move them strangely, and 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 205 

'twas a passing beauteous corpse o'er which they made their 
useless outcry. Nevertheless I am not a man to find console - 
ments for such grief, I bade them mourn at home ; the tears 
of women do provoke me more than blows." 

Caiaphas stood lost in thought, anon he stooped again to 
listen at the sealed-up door of the sepulchre. Galbus, watch- 
ing him, laughed. 

" By the gods, sir," he said " One would think thou wert 
the chief believer in the dead man's boast that he would rise 
again ! What hearest thou ? Prithee say ! a message from 
the grave would be rare news !" 

Caiaphas deigned no reply. Muffling himself again iu his 
mantle, he asked 

" When does the watch change?" 

" In an hour's time," replied Galbus " Then I, together 
with my men, rest for a space, in such heat as this, rest is 
deserved." 

" And when dost thou return again ?" 

" To-night at moonrise." 

"To-night at moonrise 1" echoed Caiaphas thoughtfully. 
" Mark my words, Galbus, watch thy men and guard thyself 
from sleeping. To-night use double vigilance ! for when to- 
night is past, then fears are past, and when to-morrow's sun 
doth shine, and he, the 'Nazarene,' is proved again a false 
blasphemer to the people, then will all watching end. Thou 
wilt be well rewarded, watch, I say, to-night ! far more to- 
night than any hour of to-day. Thou hearest me ?" 

Galbus nodded. 

" I have heard much of the truth and circumspectness of 
the soldiery of Rome" proceeded Caiaphas smiling darkly 
" And specially of warriors like thee, who have the mastery 
of a hundred men, from which this present watch is chosen. 
Take heed therefore to do thy calling and thy country justice, 
so shall thy name be carried on the wings of praise to Caesar. 
Fare-thee-well 1" 

He moved away then paused, listening doubtfully, with 
head turned back over his shoulder towards the tomb. 

" Art thou sure thou hast heard nothing ?" he asked 
again. 

Galbus lost patience. 

" By the great name of the Emperor I serve and by the 
lance I carry," he exclaimed, striking his heel on the groundj 
" I swear to thee, priest, nothing nothing !" 
18 



206 BARABBAS 

*" Thou hast hot blood, soldier" returned Caiaphas sedately 
'' Beware lest it lead thee into error 1" 

And he paced slowly down the dusty road and disappeared. 
Galbus watched his retreating form with an irrepressible disgust 
written on every feature of his face. One of his men ap- 
proached him. 

" 'Twas the Jewish high-priest that spoke with thee ?" 

"Ay, 'twas even he" he responded briefly "Either I 
choke in his presence, or the dust kicked up by his holy sandals 
hath filled me with a surpassing thirst. Fetch me a cup of 
wine." 

The man obeyed, getting the required beverage out of the 
provision tent. 

"Ah, that washes the foul taste of the Jew out of my 
mouth" said Galbus, drinking heartily, " Methinks our 
Emperor hath got a beggarly province here in Judaea. Why, 
if history have any truth in it, 'tis the custom of this people 
to be conquered and sold into slavery. I believe of all my 
hundred, thou dost know thy lessons best, Vorsinius, have 
not these Jews been always slaves ?" 

Vorsinius, a young soldier with a fair intelligent countenance, 
smiled. 

" I would not say so much as that, good Galbus," he replied 
modestly " but methinks they have never been heroes." 

" No, nor will they ever be," said Galbus, draining his cup 
and shaking the dregs out on the ground " Such names as 
hero and Jew consort not well together. What other nation 
in the world than this one would insist on having a watch set 
round a tomb lest perchance a dead man should rise 1" 

He laughed, and the good-humoured Vorsinius laughed with 
him. Then they resumed their respective posts, and moved no 
more till in an hour's time the watch was changed. But save 
for the clanking of armour as one party of soldiers marched 
away into the city, and the other detachment took its place, the 
deep and solemn silence round the sealed sepulchre remained 
nnbrokeu. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDF 207 



CHAPTEK XXXII. 

MEANWHILE Barabbas sitting with his friend Melchior in 
the best room of the inn where that mysterious personage had 
his lodging, was endeavouring to express his thanks for the 
free and ungrudging hospitality that had been afforded him. 
He had supped well, slept well, and breakfasted well, and all 
at the cost and care of this new acquaintance with whom, as 
might be said, he was barely acquainted, moreover the very 
garments he wore were Melchior's and not his own. 

" If thou seekest a man to work, I will work for thee" he 
said now, fixing his large bold black eyes anxiously on the 
dark enigmatical face of his voluntary patron, " But unless 
thou can'st make use of my strength in service, I can never 
repay thee. I have no kinsfolk in the world, mother and 
father are dead long since, and well for them that it is so, for 
I should have doubtless been their chief affliction. Once I 
could make a boast of honesty, I worked for the merchant 
Shadeen, and though I weighed out priceless gems and golden 
ingots I never robbed him by so much as a diamond chip until 
until the last temptation. If thou wilt ask him, he will I 
know say this of me for he was sorrier for my sin than I 
had heart to be. I have some little knowledge of books and 
old philosophies, and formerly I had the gift of fluent speech, 
but whatsoever I might have been I am not now, my 
hands are stained with blood and theft, and though the peo- 
ple set me free, full well I know I am an outcast from true 
liberty. Nevertheless thou hast fed me, housed me, clothed 
me, and told me many wise and wondrous things, wherefore 
out of gratefulness, which I lack not, and bounden duty, I am 
fain to serve thee and repay thee, if thou wilt only teach me 
how." 

Melchior, leaning back on a low window-seat, surveyed him 
placidly from under his half-closed eyelids, a faint smile on his 
handsome mouth. 

"Friend Barabbas," he responded lazily, "thou owest me 
nothing on the contrary, 'tis I that owe thee much. Thou 
art a type of man, even as I also am a type of man, and I 
have derived much benefit from a study of thy complex parts, 
more benefit perchance than is discovered in the ' old philos- 



208 BARABBAS 

ophies' wherewith thou fanciest thou art familiar. Mark thou 
the difference betwixt us ! though seemingly our composition 
is the same dull mortal clay. Thou art poor, thou hast but 
yester morn left prison, naked and ashamed, I am rich, not 
by the gifts of men, which things I spurn, or by the leavings 
of the dead ; but by the work of mine own brain, man's only 
honest breadwinner. I have never found my way to prison, 
as I despise all roads that lead one thither. They are foul, 
therefore, loving cleanness, I tread not in them. Thou, made 
animal man, and ignorant of the motive power of brain that 
masters matter, did'st at the bidding of mere fleshly lust re- 
sign thine honour for a woman's sake, I, made intelligent 
man, do keep my honour for my own sake, and for the carry- 
ing out of higher laws which I perceive exist. Nevertheless 
thou art truer man than I. Thou art the type of sheer brute 
manhood, against which Divine Spirit for ever contends." 

He paused ; and lifting his head from its recumbent posi- 
tion, smiled again. 

" What wilt thou do for me, Barabbas ?" he continued lightly 
. " Draw water, till the soil, shake my garments free from 
dust, or other such slavish service? Go to! I would not 
have thee spoil thy future ! Take my advice and journey thou 
to Rome, I'll fill thy pouch with coin, settle thyself as 
usurer there and lend out gold to Caesar! Lend it freely, 
with monstrous interest accumulating, for the use of the Im- 
perial whims, battles, buildings, and wantons ! So get thee 
rich and live honourably, none will ask of thee ' wert thou 
thief?' ' wert thou murderer ?' No ! for the Emperor will 
kiss thy sandal and put on thee his choicest robe, and all 
thou hast to do ia to keep his name upon thy books and never 
let it go. 'Ave Caesar Imperator' is the keynote of the 
Roman shouting but Caesar's whisper in thine ear will have 
more meaning ' Hail, Barabbas, King of the Jews ! rich, 
Barabbas, who doth lend me money, noble Barabbas, whoi 
willingly reneweth bills, powerful Barabbas, who doth hold 
the throne and dynasty by a signature !' " 

He laughed, the while his companion stared at him fas- 
cinated and half afraid. 

" Or," pursued Melchior, " wilt thou by preference make 
friends with frenzied Peter, and join the disciples of the 
'Nazarene'?" 

" Not with Peter no !" exclaimed Barabbas in haste, " I 
ike him not, he is not certain of his faith. And of the 



H, 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 209 

other men who came from Galilee I knew naught, save that 
they all forsook their Master. JLwould have followed the 
' Nazarene' Himself into the blackest hell ! but His followers 
are coward mortals and He" 

" Was Divine, thiukest thou ?" asked Melchior, fixing upon 
him a look of searching gravity. 

Barabbas met his gaze steadily for a moment, then his own 
eyes fell and he sighed deeply. 

" I know not what to think," he confessed at last. " When 
I first beheld Him, He did in very truth seem all Divine ! 
then. the glory vanished, and only a poor patient suffering 
Man stood there, where I, faint from the prison famine and 
distraught of fancy, imagined I had seen an Angel ! Then 
when He died ah then, my soul was shaken ! for to the 
very last I hoped against all hope, surely, I said, a God can 
never die. And now, if thou wilt have the truth, I judge 
Him as a martyred Man, of glorious beauty, of heroic char- 
acter, one worthy to follow, to love, to serve ; . . . but . . . 
if He had been indeed a God, He could not thus hava 
died !" 

Melchior leaned forward, resting his chin on one hand and 
studying him curiously. 

-JV Knowest thou, excellent Barabbas, what is this death?" 
he asked " Among the ' old philosophies' thou readest, hast 
mastered aught concerning its true nature ?" 

" All men know what it is" replied Barabbas drearily 
u A choking of the breath, a blindness of the eyes, dark- 
ness, silence, and an end !" 

"Nay, not an end, but a beginning!" said Melchior rising 
and confronting him, his eyes flashing with enthusiasm 
" That choking of the breath, that blindness of the eyes 
these are the throes of birth, not death ! Even as the new- 
born child struggles for air, and cannot too suddenly endure 
the full unshaded light of day, so does the new-born soul 
that struggles forth from out its fleshly womb, fight gaspingly 
for strength to take its first deep breathings-in of living glorv. 
A darkness and a silence, sayest thou ? Not so ! a radiance 
and a music ! a wondrous clamour of the angels' voices ringing 
out melodies aloft like harps in tune ! And of the spirit lately 
parted from the earth, they ask ' What bringest thou ? 
What message dost thou bear? Hast thou made the sad 
world happier, wiser, fairer?' and over all, the deathless 
Voice of Marvel thunders ' Soul of a man ! What hast 



210 BARABBAS 

thou done?' And that great question must be met and an- 
swered, and no Lie will serve !" 

Barabbas gazed at him, awed, but incredulous. 

" This is the faith of Egypt ?" he asked. 

Melchior eyed him with a touch of scorn. 

"The faith of Egypt 1" he echoed "'Tis not faith, 'tis 
knowledge ! Knowledge gained through faith. 'Tis no more 
of Egypt than of any land, 'tis a truth, and as a truth is 
universal, a truth the ' Nazarene' was born to make most 
manifest. The world is never ripe for truth, how should it 
be, so long as it is well content to build its business and its 
social life on lies !" 

He paused, and recovering from his momentary excitement, 
went on in his coldest and most satirical tone 
I " Worthy Barabbas, thou, like the world, art most unfitted 
for the simplest learning, despite thine 'old philosophies.' Such 
common facts as that there are millions upon millions of eternal 
worlds, and millions upon millions of eternal forms of life, would 
but confuse thy brain and puzzle it. Thou art a mass of matter, 
unpermeated by the fires of the spirit, and were I to tell thee 
that the ' Nazarene' has ' died" according to the common word, 
only to prove there is no death at all, thy barbarous mind would 
be most sore perplexed and troubled. Thou hast not yet obtained 
the mastery of this planet's laws, thou'rt brute man merely, 
though now, methinks thou'rt more like some fierce tiger disap- 
pointed of its mate, for thou can'st not wed thy Judith"-fr 

Barabbas interrupted him with a fierce gesture. 

" I would not wed her now !" 

" No ? Thou would'st rather murder Caiaphas ?" 

Barabbas shuddered. His black brows met in a close frown, 
his lips were pressed together hard, and his eyes were almost 
hidden under their brooding lids. 

" I have already blood upon my hands," he muttered " And 
the man I killed Gabrias was innocent, my God ! inno- 
cent as a dove compared to this wolfish priest who works hia 
evil will by treachery and cunning. Nevertheless since I be- 
held the ' Nazarene'' " 

" Why should the ' Nazarene' affect thee ?" asked Melchior 
placidly " A martyred Man, thou sayest no more, thou 
can'st be sorry for Him as for many another and forget." 

Barabbas lifted his eyes. 

" I cannot take a human life again," he said solemnly, his 
voice trembling a little " since I have looked upon His face 1" 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 211 

Molchior was silent. 

A long pause ensued, then Barabbas resumed in calmer 
tones 

" If thou wilt give me leave, I will go forth and ask for news 
of old Iscariot, and of his daughter, for though I may not, 
would not wed her, because my own great sins and hers 
have set up an everlasting barrier between us, I love her, 
Heaven help me, still. I have slept late and heard nothing, 
wherefore to ease my mind concerning her, I will inquire how 
atie fares. I would I could forget the face of the dead Judas !" 

A tremor ran through him, and he moved restlessly. 

"'Twas a face to be remembered" said Melchior medita- 
tively " Set in the solemn shadows of the trees, 'twas a pale 
warning to the world ! Nevertheless, despite its frozen tragedy, 
it was not all despair. Remorse was written in its staring eyes, 
remorse, repentance ; and for true repentance, God hath 
but one reply pity, and pardon 1" 

" Thinkest thou in very truth his sin will be forgiven ?" ex- 
claimed Barabbas eagerly. 

" Not by the world that drove him to that sin's committal"/ 
answered Melchior bitterly " The world that hunts men 
down to desperation, hath no pity for the desperate. But 
God's love never falters. even the trembling soul of Judas 
may find shelter in that hjvej'* 

His voice grew very sweet and grave, and a sudden moisture 
dimmed Barabbas's eyes. 

" Thy words do comfort me," he murmured huskily, ashamed 
of his emotion " albeit I have been told that God is ever a 
God of vengeance. But Judas was so young, . . . and Ju- 
dith" He broke off then added whisperingly " I forgot 
he bled at her touch ! 'twas horrible horrible, that stain of 
blood on her white fingers !" 

Melchior said nothing, and Barabbas, after a minute or two, 
rose up to go out. 

" I must breathe the air" he said abruptly " The heat 
within the house doth choke me. I will ask where the ' Naza- 
rene' is buried, and go thither." 

" Why ?" inquired Melchior " Since thou believest not in 
Him, what is He to thee ?" 

" I cannot tell" answered Barabbas slowly <l Something 
there is that draws me to the thought of Him, but what it is 
I cannot yet discover. If I believe not in Him as a God, 'tis 
because what I hear of Him doth pass all human understand- 



212 BARABBAS 

ing. Even what thou hast briefly told me doth utterly COD- 
found all reason, the miracle of His birth when His mother 
Mary was a virgin, how can I credit this? 'Tis madness j 
and my soul rejects that which I cannot comprehend." 

" Did I not tell thee what a type thou wert and art ?" said 
Melchior " A type of man unspiritualised, and therefore only 
half instructed. If thou rejectest what thou can'st not com- 
prehend, thou must reject the whole wide working of the uni- 
verse ! ' Where wast thou, 1 God said unto His servant Job, 
' when I laid the foundations of the earth f Declare if thou 
hast understanding ? . . . Hast thou commanded the morning 
since thy days T Alas, most profound and reasonable Barab- 
bas ! if thou dost wait till thou can'st ' comprehend' the mys- 
teries of the Divine Will, thou wilt need to grope through 
aeons upon aeons of eternal wonder, living a thinking life through 
all, and even then not reach the inner secret. (jComprehendest 
thou how the light finds its sure way to the dry seed in the 
depths of earth and causes it to fructify ? or how, imprisoning 
itself within drops of water and grains of dust, it doth change 
these things of ordinary matter into diamonds which queens 
covet ? Thou art not able to ' comprehend' these simplest facts 
of simple nature, and nature being but the outward reflex of 
God's thought, how should'st thou understand the workings 
of His interior Spirit which is Himself in all ? Whether He 
create a world, or breathe the living Essence of His own Di- 
vinity into aerial atoms to be absorbed in flesh and blood, and 
born as Man of virginal Woman, He hath the power supreme 
to do such things, if such be His great pleasure. Talkest thou 
of miracles? thou art thyself a miracle, thou livest in a 
miracle, the whole world is a miracle, and exists in spite of 
thee 1 Go thy ways, man; search out truth in thine own 
fashion ; but if it should elude thee, blame not the truth which 
ever is, but thine own witlessness which cannot grasp it !^ 

Barabbas stood silent, strangely moved and startled by the 
broadness of his new friend's theories. 

" I would I could believe in such a God as thou dost picture !" 
he said softly " One who doth indeed love us, and whom we 
could love !" 

He paused and sighed ; then on a sudden impulse, ap- 
proached Melchior and taking his hand, kissed it. 

" I know not who thou art," he said " but thy words are 
brave and bold, and to me thou hast been more than generous. 
Thou must consider me thy servant, for as I told thee I have 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 213 

no other means of paying back the debt I owe thee. Suffer 
me therefore to attend thee, at least till I find ways of work, 
shall this be so ?" 

Melchior smiled. 

44 Thou shah do even as thou wilt, Barabbas, albeit I do not 
need attendance. Myself hath been my bodyguard for years, 
and I have never found a more discreet and faithful confi- 
dant ! Nevertheless, to satisfy thy sudden-tender conscience, I 
will accept thy service." 

A look of relief that was almost happiness lightened Barab- 
bas'c dark features, giving them a certain nobleness and beauty. 

" I thank thee !" he said simply " Can I do aught now for 
thee within the city ?" 

" Thou cau'st bring me _news !" returned Melchior, fixing 
his eyes upon him steadily " There may be some of highest 
import. And mark me ! if thou dost visit the tomb of the 
' Nazarene,' take heed, thou wilt find it strongly guarded. 
Quarrel not with those who watch, lest thou should'st be ac- 
cused of some conspiracy to steal the corpse, the Jewish 
priests are yet in terror, for the ' Nazarene' did swear that on 
the ' third day,' that is, to-morrow, remember, to-morrow ! 
He would riso again." 

Barabbas stopped in the very act of leaving the room, and 
turning on the threshold exclaimed ; 

" Impossible ! Thou dost echo the last night's frenzy of 
Peter ! Rise, living, from the grave ? Impossible I He can- 
not !" 

Melchior looked full at him. 

" If Death be death, why truly He cannot," he responded, 
" But if Death be Life, why then He can !" 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

WITH these last strange words ringing in his ears Barabbas 
went out, wandering almost unseeingly in the open street, and 
trying to concentrate his thoughts upon the things immediately 
around him. Somehow he found this difficult. His mind was 
in a dreamy whirl, and he could hardly realise the full extent 
of all that had occurred to him within the short space of a 



214 BARABBAS 

little more than twenty-four hours. Whole ages seemed to 
have passed since the early morning of the previous day when 
he had been released from prison and when the " Nazarene" 
had been condemned to die. He had come out of his dungeon, 
half delirious with joy at the prospect of freedom, believing 
in Judith Iscariot and loving her as a man only loves once in 
a lifetime. Now he knew her worthlessness, the unrepenting 
vileness, treachery and corruption of her life, and though he 
loved her still, he was perfectly aware that it was only because 
he could not yet detach his soul from the clinging memory of 
her bewitching bodily beauty, and this was a love, or rather a 
passion, of which he was vaguely ashamed. Ashamed ? he, 
a thief, a murderer, ashamed of anything ? Since when ? 
Why, only since he had looked upon the " Nazarene." It 
was strange ! with all the force of his strong though untutored 
will, he tried to understand what singularly miraculous power 
this " Man of Nazareth" possessed, that even now, now when 
He was crucified and dead, he, Barabbas, should yet be curiously 
conscious of His presence, and conscious too that this mystic 
nearness of Him made all sin appear inexpressibly hateful and 
humiliating. Sighing uneasily, and angry with himself for 
being unable to comprehend his own feelings, he rambled about 
the streets aimlessly at first, but afterwards, recollecting part 
of his intention, he visited the house of Iscariot. There for 
the first time he learned from the servants of the mysterious 
disappearance of Judith. Sick at heart, he listened while the 
man who had opened the gate told him that search had been 
made everywhere throughout the city in vain, and that even 
now, Iscariot himself was with Pilate the governor, seeking 
for the help of the law to aid in the discovery of the missing 
girl. The servant added in awestricken tones that they had 
found the corpse of Judas uncovered, with a branch of roses 
laid across it, and that the rope which had been round his 
throat was gone. " 'Tis likely she hath taken it" he con- 
cluded " Much grief perchance hath driven her distraught. 
But wheresoever she hath wandered we can hear no tidings of 
her." 

" I will find her" said Barabbas" Tell her father when 
he comes that I will never rest till I discover her. I will 
f eek for her high and low, living or dead I will bring her 
Lome." 

He shuddered a little ao the word " dead" escaped his lips, 
and the man who received his message was startled at the 



A r>REA\I OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 215 

fierce expression of his hazard face, but nevertheless re- 
sponded dismally that " these \\ure sore times of trouble," anu 
also that the self-slain heir of the house, Judas, would bo 
" buried to-morrow." 

" To-morrow !" echoed Barabbas with a wild stare, scarcely 
knowing what he said " Why, to-morrow they say the 
' Nazarene' will rise again ! Why bury Judas ? If one dead 
man can come to life so can another !" 

The servant really alarmed this time, shut to the gate with 
*ut further parley, privately considering that everybody excep 
himself was going mad, Barabbas in particular, while Barab- 
bas on his part, perfectly reckless as to his appearance or man- 
ner, stumbled blindly and giddily down the sunny street, seeing 
nothing but the face of Judith as she had looked last night, 
lifting up her burning eyes from the body of her dead brother, 
and smiling distractedly on the stern disciple Peter from out 
the golden shower of her hair. 

" Gone gone ! and whither ?" he muttered as he went 
" To Caiaphas ? Would she have sought out Caiaphas ?" 

He checked his pace abruptly. The high-priest's palace was 
not far off, he could see the lofty palms and thick-fbliaged 
fig-trees of its private garden to which none had the entry 
save the high-priest himself, but to obtain admittance even 
to the outer court of the house without the excuse of somo 
business of high sacerdotal importance, would, he knew, be 
impossible. Moreover his very name, Barabbas, was sufficient 
to exclude him hopelessly. He sat down on a bench by the 
roadway and tried to think it out. There were no people 
passing, the stillness of the Sabbath reigned throughout the 
city. Resting his head between his two hands he pondered all 
ways and means of obtaining access to Caiaphas, in vain, no 
fortress was more impregnable than the high-priest's abode, 
no one more haughtily unapproachable in his private capacity 
than the high-priest in person. 

" Nevertheless, he knows !" said Barabbas aloud, " He is 
her lover, curse him ! and he knows where she hath fled. It 
may be she is with him even now." 

As he spoke he lifted his head, and saw that a woman had 
paused near him and was looking at him wistfully. He recog- 
nised her instantly, by her fair hair, her dreamy face, her 
coarse grey linen gown knotted beneath her bosom by a hempen 
girdle ; it was Mary of Magdala. Instinctively he rose up, 
gazing at her as steadily as she gazed at him. 



216 BARABBAS 

" Thou art Barabbas ?" she said in tremulous accents 
" Thou art he who should have died yesterday iustead of our 
Beloved 1" 

Her voice moved him deeply. It was penetratingly sweet 
and pathetic, there was a tremor in it that unnerved him. 
He tried to remind himself that she was an evil woman, a 
thing polluted, yet while he thought of this he grew in a 
manner amazed at the limpid purity and beauty of her eyes. 
They were of a singularly clear blue, but their wonderful 
lustre seemed to be a brightness exhaled from inward tears. 

" Thou should'st have died !" she repeated, and faintly 
smiled " Sorrowful Barabbas !" 

He looked at her in vague wonderment. 

" Sorrowful I am in truth," he said " But what knowest 
thou of my sorrow ? Surely I have good reason to be glad, 
seing that I am free once more, at liberty to live my life out 
to its end." 

"And dost thou love thy life and liberty?" asked Mary 
softly "Dost thou find the world so fair? Thou wert not 
overburdened with rejoicing yesterday, when in the darkness 
of the death of love, thou did'st kneel and weep with me !" 

He did not answer her at once,^but stood regarding her with 
a stern intentness. Suddenly he gave a gesture of pain and pity. 

" woman 1" he exclaimed passionately " Beautiful as 
thou art, why dost thou make of thy beauty degradation ? I 
know thee ! who does not know thee ! accurst and outcast ! 
go thy ways die even as Judas died, rather than live as 
thou dost live 1" 

She smiled, a strange sad smile, that like the pureness of 
her eyes seemed born of weeping. 

/* Friend, I have died !" she said " At my Lord's feet I 
law down all my life. Men made me what I was ; God makes 
me what^I am." 

" THou art the Magdalen ;" responded Barabbas harshly 
" And neither God nor man shall alter thee !" 

She crossed her small hands on her bosom and bent her head. 

" I was the Magdalen !" and she raised her eyes, full of 
bright tears, to the quiet sky " Or, rather, of thy charity, say 
I was that poor affrighted thing, hunted by devils, whom men 
did torture into being Magdalen." 

" Whom men did torture !" repeated Barabbas half angrily 
" Woman, for all thy sins thou hast thyself to blame !" 

Her lips quivered. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 217 

<' Thou'rt man ;" she answered " Therefore as man thon 
speakest. Lay all the burden upon woman, the burden of 
sin, of misery, of shame, of tears ; teach her to dream of perfect 
love, and then devour her by selfish lust, slay her by slow 
tortures innumerable, cast her away and trample on her even 
as a worm in the dust, and then when she hath perished, stand 
on her grave and curse her, saying ' Thou wert to blame ! 
thou fond, foolish, credulous trusting soul ! thou wert to blame 1 
not I r) 

Something in her vibrating accents struck to the heart of 
Barabbas with a sense of reproach. He drooped his head 
ashamed, and was silent. 

"Hast thou a right to judge me?" she queried mildly; 
" Art thou without sin ? Nevertheless, let us not idly re- 
proach one another, I tell thee Magdalen, as Magdalen, is 
dead; LJMary^ .live." 

" What difference dost thou make in such wise 'twixt dead 
and living!" murmured Barabbas with a troubled sigh. 

"What difference?" echoed Mary " What difference is 
there 'twixt the darkness and the light? The Mag-Jalen was 
wilder than all furies, mad with the fires of hell, pursued 
of devils, bereft of hope, and ignorant of God poor soul, 
poor soul ! she died most piteously and painlessly, slain by a 
word of pardon from the AJl-Forgiving 1 Oh, I cannot choose 
but weep to think of it ! And Mary lives, Mary, who hath 
discovered heaven in a broken heart, Mary, who builds up 
aerial hopes from tears of patience, Mary, whose ears have 
listened to the music of the Master's voice such music ! 
sweeter than the sweetest song ! ' Go thy way,' He said 
' Sin no more !' high command ! 'Twas as a crown of 
glory set upon me ! ' Sin no more !' How could I sin, re- 
membering Him ! Who could look once upon Him, and return 
from that fair light to darkness? Lo, I am newly born, and 
trembling in the throes of life, half weeping, half afraid, but 
full of love ! love for my Master and my king who hath for- 
given me and blessed me !" 

Her sweet voice had a rhythmic chime of mingled melan- 
choly and triumph, and Barabbas listened, fascinated and won- 
dering. Presently she came nearer to him. 

" Thou dost not hate me, Barabbas? Or fear me?" 

He looked at her fixedly. 

" What the ' Nazarene' hath blessed, that I can neither hate 
nor fear !" 



218 BARABBAS 

A lovely smile irradiated her face, and her watchful regard 
of him was like that of some meditative angel. 

" Thou callest Him the ' Nazarene' as others do," she said 
" because He came from Nazareth. Nevertheless He was 
a God He is a God ! Knowest thou they say that He will 
rise again ? but I believe not this. Truly His spirit may 
arise ; but we shall never see Him more as we have seen Him. 
And that is why last night I wept when they laid His fair body 
in the tomb, the body cannot rise, I said, and though as pod- 
like Spirit He will pass to Heaven, as Man He will appear no 
more to us. This is the bitterness of death ; we never see 
our loved ones as we knew them, in Hea^n theinfaces will be 
strange !" 

She paused, then went on 

" Tell me, Barabbas, of thy grief, for grief thou hast most 
visibly. I know of Judas and his death, is it for him thou 
sorrowest?" 

He met her earnest gaze for a moment in silence, then 
moved by an impulse of confidence, told her of Judith's sudden 
disappearance. 

Mary listened attentively. 

" 1 know her well by sight" she said " A fair proud girl, 
beauteous and scornful ; once she did gather up her robes in 
haste lest I should brush against them passing her. Thou 
lovost her, Barabbas?" 

He flushed and turned his head aside. 

" I have loved her !" he answered. 

" Doubtless she is all that is most perfect in a woman ?" 
murmured Mary, half questioningly, half sadly, " Chaste, 
holy, innocent and true?" 

Her words stung him with keen agony. 

" Would that she were !" he exclaimed wildly " But I will 
not lie to thee. She is nothing! She hath been seized by 
devils, such devils as did once move . . . Magdalen 1" 

She started, turning very pale. 

" Alas, Barabbas !" she said " Then is she most unhappy 
and in far worse plight than thou ! I will aid thec in thy 
search, it may be she hath wandered far beyond the city pre- 
cincts. Hast thou been to Gethsemane, where her brother 
died?" 

" Not yet" he responded wearily " I will go thither now. 
Where have they buried the ' Nazarene' ?" 

She pointed towards the west. 



A DREAM Of THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 219 

" Yonder, near Calvary" sbo said " In the sepulchre of 
Joseph of Ariiuathea, between two barren hills. If thou 
goest, thou wilt fiud it guarded. Caiaphas hath set a watch." 

Barabbas shuddered at the name. 

" Caiaphas !" he muttered between his set teeth " Always 
Caiaphas !" And yet he could not bring himself to speak 
of Judith in connection with the high-priest, and forbore to 
give expression to his fear that the lost girl might even now 
be with the haughty dignitary who was in secret her lover. 

" I will go to Gethsemane" he repeated mechanically 
" But the body of Judas was not found within the garden, but 
outside, and his sister knoweth naught of the secret place of 
shadows where he perished. Nevertheless I will make search 
there, and I will visit the burial-place of the ' Nazarene' ere 
sunset. If thou hearest any news, thou wilt bring it to me ?" 

" Where shall I find thee?" asked Mary. 

He gave her the name of the inn where he at present stayed 
with his acquaintance, Melchior. 

" I shall remember" she said " And if I see the strayed 
girl anywhere I will follow her, and if I hear of her I will 
track the rumour to its source. Meantime fare-thee-well ! If 
thou dost truly visit my Lord's resting-place ere sunset, pray 
for me, for the guard doth forbid me to approach I may not 
now go thither until to-morrow." 

"Until to-morrow!" echoed Barabbas, and looked at her 
strangely. 

" Even so, to-morrow," she repeated " "When the morn- 
ing breaks, I shall take flowers and sweet fragrances to strew 
upon the dead, they say the guard will be removed at dawn. 
Farewell ! God comfort thee !" 

And with a gentle inclination of her head, she wrapped her 
mantle round her and glided softly and rapidly away. 

Barabbas stood looking after her for a moment, lost in 
thought ; and his lips unconsciously murmured over and over 
again the word, 

" To-morrow !" 

Then, drawing his linen hood well over his brows that he 
might not be recognised and detained by any of his former 
acquaintances, he passed through the Sabbath-quieted streets 
of the city, and out on the road that led towards Gethsemane. 



220 BARABBAS 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

COOL shadows greeted him as he approached the quaint 
secluded garden which was now destined to be evermore re- 
nowned in the world's history. A faint wind swung the heavy 
foliage of the fig-trees with a solemn sound, and the clear brook 
that ran between two low banks of moss and turf from which 
some ancient olives grew, made subdued and soothing music. 
Down here last night, here where the shelving ground dipped 
towards the water, here where the fig-trees were dark with 
their darkest bunches of thick leaves, Judas had been found 
dead ; and it was with a dreary sense of ominous foreboding 
that Barabbas came to the same place now, in gloomy expecta- 
tion of some new disaster. Uneasily he lifted the overhanging 
branches and peered among the flickering tints of dense and 
luminous green, not a living creature was visible. He moved 
to and fro softly, looking about him everywhere in vague search 
for Judith, yet doubting all the while the possibility of find- 
ing her in such a spot. Up and down he gazed wistfully, 
now towards the winding path ascending to the Mount of 
Olives, anon, backward to the shadowy depths of the Valley 
of Kedron, and having reconnoitred all the visible landscape 
immediately outside Gethsemane, he resolved to enter the gar- 
den itself. He lifted the latch of the small wooden gate that 
separated it from the road, and went in among the towering 
palm-trees and climbing roses that there were made particular 
objects of cultivation and grew in rich profusion in every avail- 
able corner. As he wandered slowly along one of the moss- 
grown paths, he paused to listen. Never, surely, was there such 
a silence anywhere as here ! The murmur of the brook was lost, 
the wind failed to stir so much as a small flutter among the 
leaves, and the impressive stillness of the place was such, that 
it seemed as if the voice of God had spoken, saying : " Here, 
where My Beloved cried to Me in His agony, let there no more 
be any earthly sound !" 

Barabbas hesitated. Seized with a solemn fear, his presence 
in the garden appeared to himself a strange intrusion, and after 
a moment or two, he turned back, finding it impossible to pro- 
ceed. He looked dreamily at the flowers around him ; roses, 
red and pale, turned their faces upon him in apparent wonder- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 221 

ment, a glowing cactus-tree confronted him, all in a seeming 
angry blaze of bloom, the nodding ferns trembled as with 
interior agitation, and every separate leaf and blade of grass, 
he fancied, questioned him silently upon the nature of his 
errand in tha sacred haunt, made wonderful by a God's un- 
selfish sorrow. Word by word, all that the disciple Peter had 
related concerning the last night spent by the " Nazarene" 
within this same Gethsemane returned to his mind. 

" Will He possess all things?" he murmured half aloud 
" A Man of Nazareth, crucified and dead ? shall we not eveu 
wander in this garden without His memory haunting us ?" 

And he hastened his steps, anxious to leave the spot, although 
he knew not why. A little way beyond where he stood, be- 
yond the roses and the sentinel cactus-flowers, the dewy turf 
still reverently bore the impress of a Form Divine that there 
had fallen prone and wept for all the world, wept with such 
tears as never yet had rained from mortal eyes, there too had 
lighted for a little space, a great consoling Angel, and there 
no human step had passed since the fair King of perfect Love 
had gone forth patiently to die. 

" Judith would not be here" Barabbas muttered, as he 
left the garden, closing the gate noiselessly after him, " 'Twas 
never a resort of hers, she would not think of coming hither." 

He paused, his heart beating with an undefinable anxiety. 

" No no, she would not dream of it" he repeated " If 
sorrow hath distracted her, she might more likely have gone 
towards Calvary, the scene of yesterday. I will visit the 
tomb of the ' Nazarene' and inquire of the guard whether 
she hath passed them by." 

Thus resolved he walked on his way slowly, full of the most 
bewildering thoughts. The question that reigned uppermost 
in his mind, was, strange to say, not what had become of 
Judith Iscariot, but what and who was the " Nazarene" ? 
Why did His presence seem to permeate the very air? How 
was He different to others, that one should not be able to 
forget Him ? He was a Teacher of new doctrine, well, there 
had been other teachers of new doctrine and would be many 
more. He was brave and beautiful ; there were others brave 
and beautiful likewise. He was not a hero as the world 
accepts heroes, He had fought no battles, made no conquests, 
and owned neither throne nor province. He was simply, or 
appeared to be a very poor Man, who had been kind and sym- 
pathetic to the sorrowful ; He had healed a few sick persons, 
19* 



222 BAR ABB AS 

and given the comforting hope of Heaven to those who had 
no consolation upon earth. Where was the particular marvel 
of these things ? A life so simple, so common, where was 
its Divinity? Barabbas pondered the problem vainly, he 
was not wise enough to comprehend that perhaps the greatest 
miracle of the world is this same sort of "simple" and 
"common" life, which is after all neither simple nor common, 
but most truly complex and phenomenal. For nothing upon 
earth is so singular as kindness, nothing so rare as sympathy, 
nothing so absolutely unique, wonderful and purely Divine, 
as ungrudging, unboastful, devoted, changeless Love that seeks 
nothing for itself, but freely gives everything. What men call 
love is often selfishness ; w'hat God accepts as love is the entire 
and voluntary resignation of self for love's own sake. " In 
losing thyself " He says " thou shalt find Me, and in find- 
ing Me, thou wilt find all !" 

But Barabbas had not the eyes to discern the spiritual side 
of nature. He could only see what appeared on the surface 
of life, of interior meanings he knew nothing. It puzzled 
him to consider that the mysterious man Melchior, whether 
he were Egyptian, Greek, or any other nationality, actually 
accepted this Jesus of Nazareth as a God, without question. 
Why ? Because if a God, how would it have been possible 
for Him to die? 

" I must know everything concerning Him" sighed Barab- 
bas perplexedly " I must not accept mere rumour. When 
Judith is found, and when all these present troubles are past, I 
will go down to Nazareth, and obtain a true report. It shall 
be my business j for if He were Messiah, then are our people 
cursed for ever with the curse of God that passeth not away. 
I will not take mere hearsay, I will prove things. As for 
His rising from the dead, that cannot be" 

Here, interrupting his meditations, he lifted his eyes to look 
at the low hills in front of him. At the distance he now was, 
he could plainly see the ring of white tents that circled the 
tomb of the " Nazarene." 

" Truly the watch is set" he murmured, " And 'tis an 
ample guard. There can be no feigning in this fear, the 
terror of the priests is real. Cowards and sceptics as they are, 
they surely deem this Man will rise again 1" 

The sight of all those soldiers' tents amazed him, he had 
,hought to find one or two sentinels perhaps on guard, but 
that a regular military " watch" should be encamped round the 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAQEDT 223 

burial-place of one, who after all, according to the law's esti- 
mate, was no more than a crucified criminal, seemed to him 
positively astounding. The hours of the afternoon were wear- 
ing on rapidly and he hurried his pace, anxious to reach and 
examine the tomb itself, but as he came within a few yards of 
it, a guard confronted him, and with a gruff word, forbade him 
to proceed further. Barabbas answered the man gently, ex- 
plaining the errand on which he was bound, and asking whether 
any one resembling the beautiful Judith had been seen wander- 
ing about in the neighbourhood. The soldier looked at him 
scrutinisingly, then began to laugh. 

" Why, as I live !" he said " Thou art Barabbas ! I am 
one of those who came to fetch thee out of prison the other 
morn, thou wert drunk with the air and light, as with new 
wine, and little did'st thou deem that thou wert going to thy 
freedom ! Thou lookest altogther a different man, thus cleansed 
and fitly clothed ; dost find the world altered since thy former 
days ?" 

" Nay, 'tis much the same," responded Barabbas somewhat 
bitterly " Evil succeeds, and good perishes ; am I not myself 
a living witness of this, seeing 'tis I who should have been 
crucified instead of the ' Nazarene' ? " 

" I warrant thou dost not regret His end or thine own es- 
cape !" returned the soldier with a grim smile " Thou hast not 
yet been two whole days out of prison, and already thou art 
searching for a woman ! 'Tis ever the way with fierce rascals 
such as thou, nevertheless however much I may sympathise 
with thee, I cannot let thee pass me, the orders that we have 
are stringent." 

" I well believe it !" said Barabbas looking wistfully at the 
sealed-up door of the rocky sepulchre, " And I do not urge 
thee unto disobedience. And concerning the woman I have 
spoken of, I seek her not for mine own sake, 'tis the daughter 
of Iscariot that hath strayed from home, the same Iscariot 
whose son Judas hung himself for shame that he betrayed the 
Man of Nazareth. 'Tis thought she is distracted at her brother' s 
death, and that she roams wildly, unknowing whither." 

" By my faith 'tis a sad history !" said the Eoman, not with- 
out a touch of sympathy, " This old Iscariot is truly in a 
piteous case. But no woman, fair or foul, hath been near these 
precincts all the day so far as I can tell thee. Nevertheless 
when the watch doth change at moonrise, and Galbus the cen- 
turion takes chief command, I will inform him what thou 



224 BARABBAS 

gayest, he hath two children of his own, young maidens both, 
and should he chance on this strayed lamb he may be trusted 
to persuade her home. But for thyself, I do advise thee not 
to linger, for here all idlers are suspected thieves, and if I 
do mistake not thou hast some past reputation for skilled 
robbery ! Perchance thou would'st not steal a corpse, for 
truly 'tis not valuable, yet all things counted, thou'rt safer at 
a distance from this place. Frown not ! I mean thee well." 

" I thank thee I" said Barabbas briefly, and then stood for a 
moment, lost in thought and uncertain what to do. It was 
growing late, the sun was verging towards its setting. Flecks 
of crimson, like floating rose-leaves, drifted in the sky imme- 
diately above the hill of Calvary, and below these delicate 
flushes, spread a watery band of green, a translucent sky-lagoon 
into which, ere long, the glorious orb of day would plunge and 
sink like a ship on fire. The landscape, though nearly barren 
of verdure, had a wild beauty of its own seen thus in the 
afternoon glow of the warm Eastern light, and so Barabbas 
thought as his tired eyes roved from point to point unrestfully 
and with a strained expression of regret and sorrow. The 
centre of all visible things seemed to be that sealed and guarded 
sepulchre ; and presently, bringing back his gaze to the bold 
and martial form of the Roman soldier who still watched him 
half suspiciously, half curiously, he waved his hand with an 
expressive gesture towards the tents that were clustered round 
the mystic tomb. 

" Surely all this is needless waste of trouble and of time ?" 
he said with forced lightness " Who that is sane would fear 
that a dead man can rise?" 

" Thou mistakest the nature of the fear" returned the 
soldier, " No one, not even Caiaphas, is such a fool as to be- 
lieve in a resurrection of the dead. No, no ! we guard against 
the living; this 'Nazarene's' disciples are all within the 
neighbourhood, and they would steal the body of their former 
Master willingly, if by this deed, they could assume His 
prophecies were true. But now are they baffled ; they cannot 
break our ring or pass our ground ; and if the dead Man comes 
to life again He must Himself find force to rend the rocks 
asunder, for no human hand will aid the miracle !" 

" 'Twould be a miracle indeed !" murmured Barabbas 
dreamily. 

" Ay ! and 'twill not happen," laughed the Roman 
" We all know that. And to-morrow, praise be to the gods, 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 225 

the test will have been made and the watch ended, for 'tis the 
third day, and if He rise not in keeping with His own saying, 
'tis a finished matter, and we shall no more be teased with 
follies. To-morrow thou can'st wander here at will unmolested 
to-day I bid thee get hence and home." 

"And I obey thee" rejoined Barabbas turning away 
" Thou wilt speak to thy centurion of Iscariot's daughter?" 

" Most faithfully." 

" Again I thank thee. Farewell 1" 

" Farewell !" 

The soldier resumed his slow pacing to and fro, and Barabbas 
with a last lingering look at the sepulchre, went on his reluctant 
way back towards the city. He noticed as he passed the 
further one of the little hills between which the tomb was 
situated, that there was a deep hollow in the eround such as 
might have been burrowed out by some wild animal for its 
sleeping-place. It was large enough to hold a man unseen in 
its sandy depths, and as he measured it with a glance, the 
bold idea struck him that he would come there that very night 
and hide, as it were, in ambush to watch the sepulchre also. 

" For if aught should chance that is in any wise miraculous, 
then I shall witness it" he soliloquised " Or if the disciples 
of the ' Nazarene' should strive to steal His corpse, why then I 
shall behold the fight 'twixt them and the Roman guard. Most 
surely I will return hither, for whatsoever happens it will not 
be a night for sleep, but vigilance. I can watch, I too, as 
well as any other man, moreover if marvellous things are to 
be seen, 'twere well that I should see them. If the dead Man 
rise again then shall I know He is not man but God ; but unless 
I see Him living with my own eyes I never will believe. 
Wherefore to prove this thing I will return hither this night, 
and nothing shall prevent me. The judgment and the heart 
may be deceived, the reason and the sight, never. 'Twill 
please me well to play the secret sentinel ! and, as I live, no 
force shall move me from my post till dawn 1" 



226 BARABBAS 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

As he resolved on this plan, he stopped to take a careful 
survey of the exact situation of the sheltering hollow in which 
he meant to pass the night. The dust of the road was grey 
and thick about his feet, above him the heavens were red- 
dening into sunset-glory. The landscape had no touch of 
human life about it, save his own solitary figure, Jerusalem 
lay before him, a dream of white roofs rather than a reality, 
and not a sound stirred the heated air. Therefore, in the great 
hush that prevailed, he was unaccountably startled to see the 
form of a woman, walking, or rather gliding slowly towards 
him ; she was coming up from the city carrying a sheaf of large 
white lilies. She was herself, like the blossoms she bore, clad 
in white, and as she approached with perfectly noiseless foot- 
steps, Barabbas, moved by a sudden instinct, placed himself 
directly in her path, fully confronting her and staring at her 
with burning, eager, wistful eyes. Her face, pale and mar- 
vellously beautiful, was the same he had seen so strangely illu- 
mined on Calvary when the bells had begun to ring, and the 
darkness had slowly dispersed, a face expressing neither youth 
nor age, nor any mark of earthly time, but reflecting on its 
pure and perfect features both maidenhood and motherhood in 
one, combined with such angelic sweetness, wisdom, sorrow, 
purity and love as never had before adorned the fairness of 
any woman born. Barabbas held his breath for very wonder- 
ment at sight of her, something supreme and queenly in her 
aspect disposed him to fall upon his knees before her in rever- 
ence, yet he refrained from this and stood erect, trembling 
greatly, but resolved to keep the position he had taken up in 
the centre of the narrow road, so that she might not pass him 
without at least a look, a word or a gesture. 

"Tis the Mother of the Crucified!" he murmured "I 
will speak to her, and ask of her the truth concerning all the 
marvellous history of her Son, surely she will answer ! 
surely she must answer, seeing it may become a matter of life 
and death, not only with me, but with the world." 

He waited, and she came on, holding her lilies with both 
hands against her breast. Within two or three yards of him 
however, she paused, and stood still. So still indeed was sh 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 227 

that she might have been a figure of ivory or marble ; not a 
fold of her garments stirred, not a petal of the lilies she 
carried quivered, her calm eyes, clear as heaven, regarded 
him steadily, one tress of her fair hair escaping from the 
white linen head-covering she wore, glittered against her 
throat, and on her lips rested the tender shadow of a smile. 
Behind her flamed the sunset, round her the very air grew 
dense and brilliant, as though powdered through with the fine 
dust of finest amber, and at her feet one fallen lily-bud 
opened its satin petals to the light, disclosing its interior heart 
of gold. Vaguely awed by her very quiescence, Barabbas 
gazed upon her enthralled and for the moment stricken speech- 
less, a wondering, doubting and bewildered sinner, face to 
face with the Angel- Virgin of the world ! The red light of 
the sinking sun playing on the whiteness of her garments 
dazzled him, she seemed to grow in stature and in majesty 
even while he looked, and with a sigh of mingled pain, dread 
and desire, he extended his hands appealingly. 

" Mary of Nazareth !" 

The shadow of the smile upon her lips deepened and softened 
with an infinite compassion. But she neither answered nor 
moved. 

"Mary, Mother of the 'Nazarene' I" he faltered, trembling 
more and more, for there was something supernatural in her 
beauty, something almost terrifying in the mingled meekness 
and majesty of her regard " Hear me, I beseech thee ! Thou 
knowest who I am, Barabbas, an evil man of many sins, 
and, had the people's voice been just, 'tis I who should have 
perished yesterday instead of thy beloved Son. I swear I 
would have died most willingly, not at the first no ! for I 
did long for liberty and all the joys of free existence ; but after 
I had seen His face, my life seemed to mine own self worth- 
less, and I would have given it gladly to save His !" 

Still not a word from her ! only that same mild tenderness 
of look and smile. 

" They say thy Son blasphemed" pursued Barabbas with 
increasing agitation, " Because He spoke familiarly of God 
and called Him ' Father' ! 'Twas a wild utterance, for now 
a foolish rumour floats upon the people's lips, a rumour most 
incredible, alleging that He was in very truth the only Son 
of God. Why did'st not thou, Mary, disprove this idle tale? 
for thou, of nil the world, dost know the manner of Hia 
birth ! Thou should'st have warned Him of the danger of 



228 BARABBAS 

His words, and so might He have saved Himself from the 
penalty of the law. For were He the holiest man that ever 
breathed, still in this way of speech He was guilty of a vast 
presumption, the great God, the terrible Almighty hath never 
vested His Divinity in human guise ! Knowest thou not, Mary, 
that this false impression of Him still abides ? and that the 
whisper of it, passing from mouth to mouth doth waken the 
strangest fears and doubts within the souls of men ? and even 
I, Barabbas, ignorant, guilty, and all unbelieving as I am, grow 
troubled and perplexed, seeking the truth and finding none ! 
With thee this matter rests, thou art the Mother of this 
' Nazarene,' 'tis not too late to speak thou can'st unravel all 
the mystery, wherefore I do beseech thee answer me !" 

His entreating eyes studied her tranquil face eagerly, but 
not a sound escaped her lips, not even a faint responsive sigh. 

" Why wilt thou thus keep silence?" he exclaimed passion- 
ately il Hast thou thought, Mary, what the result will be if 
thou dost suffer this mad and strange report to travel on 
uncontradicted ? For if thy dead Son be declared a God, of 
birth miraculous and Divine, then must a curse rest on the 
people of Judaea for having slain Him, and all the world will 
make a scorn of Israel for endless time ! On us will fall the 
blame and punishment for our rejection of the God-Messiah, 
and the nations of the earth will loathe us for our cruelty, our 
wickedness, perversity and unbelief. Mary, thou knowest ! 
Speak ! wilt thou let the whole world worship a Legend and 
a Lie?" 

As he uttered the last word, a sudden cold shudder ran 
through him, he grew dizzy and faint, but with an effort held 
his ground, gazing full at her to whom he made his bold and 
desperate appeal. She had not moved, but there was an 
indefinable change in her that startled him. Some mystic 
light that was not of the sunset seemed cast upon her face, and 
in her stedfast eyes there shone a radiance more softly brilliant 
than the glittering of moonbeams on the sea. Half swooning 
with the force of his own emotions, Barabbas suddenly fell on 
his knees, grasping the edge of her white robe in one hand. 

" Mary of Nazareth !" he whispered hoarsely " In pity to 
me a sinner, in mercy to the world declare the truth ! Who 
was the Father of thy Son ?" 

Deep silence followed his daring question. Above the fra- 
grant lilies, her radiant face grew warm with speechless elo- 
quence, and lifting her eyes she gazed upward upward, 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 229 

far into the vistas of ethereal blue; transfigured by some 
inward glorious thought she seemed about to float away upon 
the air in answer to a voice calling her heavenward. The sun 
dropped below the horizon and disappeared, the skies began 
to pale into that rapid Eastern twilight which paves the passage 
of the stars. 

"Not a word! not a word !" cried Barabbas then, spring- 
ing to his feet, and carried out of himself by mingled fervour 
and ferocity : ' Woman ! wilt thou deceive Man unto the 
bitter end? Shall our very God be of thy making? Shall 
our very creeds be of thy teaching? Must thou command 
our souls even to the very hope of heaven ? If thou art human, 
if thou art holy, if thou desirest truth made manifest, speak, 
Mary, thou who did'st bring into the world this ' King' to 
whom hath now been given a Cross for throne and thorns for 
Crown ! Dost thou meditate eternal vengeance on us all ? 
Hast thou sworn within thy soul that men shall worship what 
they once despised, and pray to Him they slew ? If so, such 
monstrous compensation ne'er was dreamed of 'tis a revenge 
more subtle than the fiercest tortures ! Is it for wrath or love, 
Mary, that thou dost hold thy peace ?" 

Her sweet mouth trembled a little, but she did not speak, 
her eyes were still uplifted as in prayer. 

"How can silence in aught avail thee?" pursued Barabbas 
impetuously " Lo, if the great God Invisible hath filled thee 
with His mystic Spirit, art thou not thereby made a creature 
marvellous ? a very queen of wonders ? and by thy very life 
dost thou not glorify thy sex and make it sacred and revered 
for evermore? Wherefore then hesitate to take full majesty 
and power upon thee ? But if thou hast no miracle to tell, 
surely thou art a cruelty incarnate, for by thy dumb refusal to 
be true, thou mayest weave around the hapless world a web of 
error such as the ages never yet have seen. Think for a mo- 
ineut, picture it ! shall wise men of the earth and conquer- 
ors and kings bow their proud heads before mere Woman and 
Child ? The symbol of all Nature, in which there is no touch 
Divine but everything of common ! wilt thou make fools of 
tribes and nations, thou Mother of the so-called Christ, who 
art accredited with being Virgin still ? No man hath touched 
thee, say the people, yet thou hast a husband, and thou had'st 
a Son 1 art thou thyself a Miracle ? or dost thou out of 
pleasure in an undeserved fame, suffer these wild things to ba 
said of thee ?" 

20 



230 BARABBAS 

Still she answered nothing. But bringing her eyes down 
from their rapturous survey of heaven, she fixed them on him 
with a grave regard in which there was something of mild 
rebuke as well as compassion. 

" I would not wilfully offend, or seem to offer thee reproach," 
-^he went on, vaguely troubled by her look " I know thou art 
a sorrowing Mother, at this present time, though to me thou 
hast an air of gladness rather than of grief. But I am only 
one of many who will clamour, ay, with tears and prayers, for 
an answer from thee, I am a lonely, wretched sinner with a 
broken heart, life is nothing to me, forms are nothing, the 
opinions of the world less than nothing, I seek the truth, 
that I may rest thereon and find some comfort, there are and 
will be thousands such as I. Could I believe, I would believe ; 
but an' thou wilt not speak, thou leavest me in ignorance. If 
thy Son be born of the Spirit of God, then will I worship Him 
and thee, but if He be no more than Man, then will I think 
of Him with pity as one noble and heroic who was foully slain, 
and of thee as patient woman sore afflicted, and there an end. 
On thy word do I rely, oh, thou must have a heart of steel 
or adamant, if still thou wilt not answer me 1" 

This time she stirred slightly, but she did not speak. Bend- 
ing her head a little forward over the lilies she held, she gazed 
at him with an earnest and tender thoughtfuluess, and then 
Barabbas started back amazed and terror-stricken. For 
behind her and around her a sudden great light shone, a fiery 
halo, radiating to right and left like two glittering wings between 
which her tranquil and majestic figure held its place in queenly 
and serene unconsciousness. The unearthly glory palpitated 
with a thousand hues of delicate and changeful colour, and 
Barabbas with a faint cry of wonderment, dropped again upon 
his knees. 

/** God have mercy on me !" he muttered, staring with 
dazzled eyes at the pulsating splendour and the gentle figure/ 
that in the midst of those unearthly fires stood half framed in 
flowering lilies " God have mercy on me ! Meth ought 'twas 
to a woman that I spoke, this is an Angel !" J 

A soft surprise flitted over her face, it was evident that she 
herself was unaware of the mystic light that circled her as 
with a ring. It vanished even while Barabbas spoke, and he, 
kneeling in the dust and gazing upward, fancied his sight had 
surely been deceived. But now she moved, and coming 
quite close up to him, looked him full and stedfastly in the 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 231 

eyes. A whisper light as the flutter of a leaf fell on his 
ears, 

" To-morrow !" 

And with noiseless footsteps she passed him by, seeming to 
float aerially, like a spirit, upward on her way towards the 
sepulchre between the hills. Barabbas, springing erect, ran 
recklessly a few steps after her, crying aloud 

" Mary ! Mary of Nazareth ! Woman or angel, whatever 
thou art, judge me not wrongfully ! I have but sought the 
truth, even as the world will seek it 1 the truth of Him who 
was thy Son !" 

She turued her head gently back towards him with an air 
of queenly patience. 

" To-morrow !" she repeated, and her voice sounding like a 
soft chime, seemed carried through the air, over the quiet land- 
scape into every nook and corner of rock and field, bearing as a 
message to all creation the one word " To-morrow 1" 

Then, gliding on, she disappeared. 

Breathless and overcome with excitement, Barabbas flung 
himself down on the arid turf that edged the road, his senses 
all aswoon and trembling. 

" To-morrow!" he said " "Why what shall to-morrow bring? 
"Will her dead Son live again ? Doth she also cherish this mad 
delusion ? If He in truth doth rend the rocks asunder and 
arise, 'twill be sufficient proof of God for all ; but such a 
miracle can never be, ' tis out of very Nature, yet I cannot 
but believe that some strange mystery doth invest the world, 
some thought of God is working in its depths. For long 
long ages God hath well-nigh forgotten us, doth He now re- 
member at the very time when we forget ? Hath He visited 
us in very truth, to be rejected? And if this should be so, 
what will be the purport of our doom ? Ah me, we men are 
ever fools and blind, and I the wretchedest fool of all, for 
methought I saw a heavenly radiance round yon woman of 
Nazareth, even as I deemed I saw the same in Pilate's hall 
around the figure of her Son 'twas but a dazzlemenb of sight 
and sense, a weariness and faintness which quickly passed, 
and then the light had fled. How soon our fancies are de- 
ceived ! a sick man seeth visions, and fancies they are real, 
and I, weak with Ions imprisonment and fasting, fretted with 
griefs, and poisoned with despairs, am made the dupe of mine 
own feebleness. How full was I of strength once ! and now, 
why t!:e very look of this Mary of Nazareth doth easily unman 



232 B ARABS AS 

me. To-morrow 1 I would that it were here I 'Tis growing 
late and dark I will return to Melchior and tell him whither 
I am bound to-night, then will I come back hither and take 
up my secret vigil till the marvellously-expected day shall 
dawn." 

He started running down the road towards Jerusalem, and 
as he entered the city gates, he met a detachment of soldiers, 
headed by Galbus, marching out. They were going to relieve 
the watch at the sepulchre, and encamp themselves there for 
the night. He drew aside to let them pass, and as their bur- 
nished helmets and pikes went in a narrow glittering line up 
the; road, the moon, large as a golden shield, suddenly lifted 
herself above the city, gazing, as it were, over the hills in 
open wonderment at the Divine Mystery hidden in the earth 
below. 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 

" THY command must be obeyed, nevertheless, Caiaphas, 
'tis strange and unusual." 

The speaker was an elderly scribe, a man with a pale lean 
intellectual face, and a high forehead, which just now was 
puckered in a puzzled frown. He was seated in the private 
audience-room of the high-priest, and the high-priest himself 
was majestically throned in a gilded chair opposite to him. 
Lamps were kindled, the table was strewn with slips of parch- 
ment, through the open casement the gardens of the palace 
could be seen richly illumined by the moon, it was the even- 
ing of the Sabbath-day. 

" Strange and unusual as it may be," returned Caiaphas 
coldly, " it is my order. Thy business is not to question or 
dispute, but to perform the will of those that are set over thee. 
Wherefore should'st thou and thy fellows chronicle the brief 
career and ignominious death of a mad blasphemer?" 

" There is no answer to thy ' wherefore,' save the one," re- 
plied the scribe, with a little smile, " It is the custom, and 
hath been so for many ages, to faithfully set down all things 
within our records, even to small items, whether concerning 
our evil men or good. The story of this fanatic of Nazareth 
is worthy to be written, if only to disprove all supernatural 
le<reuds that are in rumour and connection with Him. Some 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 233 

things He taught were wise, and some were foolish because 
impracticable, and possibly His best suggestions may be traced 
to Egypt, and He be proved the merest echo of some ancient 
perished creed. I do confess unto thee, Caiaphas, I see no 
reason for the absolute omission of His name in circumstantial 
history." 

Caiaphas flushed a dark red, then grew pale, and grasped the 
projecting edges of his chair with both hands convulsively. 

' Thou art a narrow pedant !" he said angrily " Thou 
can'st not see what I see. Knowest thou not there is a change 
of feeling even now among the people ? that they bemoan 
their ' Prophet's' death, and weep, saying He wrought much 
good among them ? Moreover that the end of Judas Iscariot 
hath moved them most profoundly, knowing that the unhappy 
youth did slay himself for pure remorse at having given the 
' Nazarene' over to the law ? All this will grow upon report, 
we, the Sanhedrim, shall be branded perchance, as murderers, 
and this crucified criminal be made a martyr. Wherefore I 
will not have him mentioned in our records, Shebna, let His 
name perish aud His teachings be forgotten ! lest in the 
future, men should ask : Who was this Man of Nazareth and 
wherefore was He slain ?' " 

" They will ask that the more, maybe, if thou leave it unto 
rumour" said Shebna drily, collecting his parchments to- 
gether " If thou would'st make a man immortally renowned, 
let him be spoken of from mouth to mouth, and nothing of 
any written fact be found concerning him ! Gossip hath whis- 
pered a man into a god ere now, when whole volumes of his- 
tory would have failed to make him one. I tell thee I would 
rather be talked of than written of, 'tis the more lasting fame. 
If, in impassive language, I should coldly pen the story of this 
Jesus of Nazareth, and classify Him as a poor crazed creature 
who Rave Himself out to be the Son of God, and was crucified 
for His blasphemy, no one, either in the present or the future 
would trouble their heads further concerning Him." 

" If thou write one thing thou must write all," declared 
Caiaphas with irritation " Thou must relate the terrors of the 
darkness and the earthquake ; and what could'st thou make of 
the rending of the Temple veil?" 

Shebna looked meditative. 

" True, these things were strange and terrifying" he 
murmured " But after all the heat of these late days has 
been intense, au earthquake and a storm are natural disturb- 
20* 



234 BAR A SB AS 

ances which might occur at any time, and the Temple veil 
was probably rent by an oblique flash of lightning. Thou art 
moved from thy wonted calmness, Caiaphas, else thou would'et 
see naught so particular in such events that they should not be 
written." 

The high-priest rose, trembling with the interior force of an 
inexplicable fury. 

" Thou obstinate slave, thou shalt not write them !" he cried 
vehemently " 'Tis I who scan thy leaves, 'tis I who set my 
sign upon thy chronicle to warrant and approve its truth. Now 
if thou darest so much as write the name of Jesus of Nazareth 
in these present annals, I will cut thy parchment into shreds 
before thy face and depose thee from thine office !" 

Shebna rose also, and stood staring at his irate superior in 
blank astonishment. 

" Anger not thyself thus needlessly, Caiaphas" he said 
quietly " I argue not against thy order, which shall be fulfilled, 
I simply seek to show thee 'tis in a manner unnecessary, as 
no fear can now be had of this troublous ' Nazarene,' seeing 
He is dead. Nevertheless thou shalt have complete obedience ; 
no word shall be inscribed upon our documents pertaining to 
this so-called ' King of the Jews ;' we will consign Him to 
oblivion." 

" Ay so best !" returned Caiaphas, recovering composure, 
and re-seating himself " For what the pen does not write, the 
eye cannot read. Ye scribes are after all the only powers of a 
land, ye are more than kings, for if ye chronicle not a 
victory, the world will never know 'twas gained, and if ye 
speak not of a Man, who shall ever know that he existed ? I 
believe not in the force of rumour as thou dost, who dost 
credit mere garrulity ?" 

u Why every one !" responded Shebna satirically " A 
man will doubt and seek to disprove the written facts of his- 
tory, but he will oft believe the first thing told him by his 
neighbour! And, touching this matter, Caiaphas, thou must 
not forget that there are others who have known the ' Naza- 
rene' who may write some memorial of Him ; His followers 
were many" 

" Ignorant fools all and common folk" retorted the high- 
priest " none of whom know the use of letters. A good 
company forsooth ! idle Galilean fishermen, hill-thieves, pub- 
licans, lepers and street-outcasts; such as these shall never 
write a line that can bo read hereafter. Moreover, even if 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 235 

they did, what would their report be worth, if we, who make 
the Jewish annals, are silent?" 

Shebna found no answer to this trenchant question, which 
indeed seemed to settle the matter. He had his own ideas 
upon the point, every man has his own ideas upon every 
point, but he was afraid to give them any further utterance. 
So he merely made a little deprecatory gesture of submission 
and assent, and, after a few more general remarks on ordinary 
subjects, he gathered up his parchments and humbly bowed 
himself out of his sacerdotal ruler's presence. 

Left alone, Caiaphas sat for some moments in his chair 
absorbed in thought. His face was careworn, his eyelids 
heavy with want of sleep. 

" How is it I am thus unmanned?'' he murmured wearily 
" Moved for the merest fancies ! troubled by the wandering 
humours of a tired brain ! I cannot rid me of the memory 
of the Man of Nazareth, there was a triumph in His dying 
eyes mingled with lightning-wrath that did appal my soul 1 
But I have baffled Him! there shall be no new creeds to 
conquer time ; the one Jehovah shall suffice, the one re- 
vengeful, blood-demanding, jealous God whose very name doth 
terrify the world ! If God were Love then would man grow 
too proud ; shall a worm assume that the Divine hath care 
for it ? An' such folly were believed in, we could not hold 
our mastery upon the people, each wretched unit would ap- 
peal from us to God, and deem himself our independent equals. 
Ah, what a Sabbath this hath been ! how desolate in every 
moment, from the anguish and amazement of the morning 
when old Iscariot did seek me out with furious upbraidings, 
and frenzied clamour for his lost daughter, as if I knew 
whither she hath strayed ! Would that I did know ! "Who 
is it that hath mouthed a scandal round her name and mine, 
and turned Iscariot's heart against me ? The released Barab- 
bas? Nay, he could guess nothing. I have been ever cau- 
tious, and yet, a whisper and a slander fly on swifter wings 
than light or wind, and who shall stay them ? I must be on my 
guard, and though I love Judith, I will not look upon her face 
for many days even when she is found, lest harm come of it." 

He rose, and moved to the open casement, from which a light 
wooden stairway led down into the shaded precincts of hia 
luxurious private garden. Leaning against the intertwisted 
trellis-work he looked out at the placid, star-strewn heavens 
with troubled and indifferent eyes. 



236 BARABBAS 

" 'Tis the last night of the watch" he said " And to- 
morrow all suspense will cease. Tlie counsellor of Ariuiathea 
hath kept his word, he hath not visited the tomb since the 
burial, likewise the followers of the ' Nazarene' are scared, 
and refc of settled plan or purpose, wherefore, so fur all is well. 
To-morrow we shall attest unto the people the lalseness of the 
Prophet they believed in, then, there will be- no more cause 
for fear. So will the matter be forgotten ; these fanatics for 
truth are more troublous than seditious rebels ; open truth is 
most impolitic, one cannot rule the world except by lies 1" 

He smiled a little at his own cynicism, then started ner- 
vously, hearing a slight rustling in the thick foliage below his 
balcony. Moving from his indolent posture he bent forward 
to listen, and as he did so, two brilliant wild eyes peered up at 
him from the dusky shadows. 

" Caiaphas I" and the whisper thrilled like the hiss of a 
snake through the silence, " Caiaphas 1" 

Seized with a chill terror, he stepped swiftly and noiselessly 
down the stairway, and bending back the bushes, gazed eagerly 
into what seemed a nest of leaves, and there perceived the 
form of a woman crouched down on the ground as though 
seeking to hide herself, a woman in draggled white garments 
with a fair, strangely agonized face that smiled at him in a sort 
of forlorn joy as lie discerned it among the sheltering shrubs 
and flowers. He uttered a smothered cry 

" Judith !" 

And half in rage, half in love, he dragged her from her 
hiding-place, and caught her up in his arms, looking about 
him in dread lest any one should see them, and trying to cover 
her with his own flowing mantle. 

" Judith ! Judith !" he muttered, his heart beating heavily, 
the while he sought to put back from her brows all the tangled 
gold of her dishevelled hair" What doest thou here ? Where 
hast thou been ? Knowest thou not that thy father hath sought 
thee all throughout the day with tears and heart-break ? And 
why hast thou ventured hither thus alone ? Eememberest thou 
not the scandal of tongues the gossip of the city ? Consider 
the folly of it ! if my wife saw thee, if my servants spied 
thee ! oh, thou must not linger here one moment, Judith, 
thou must go home ; come, I myself will take thee through 
the private way, and naught will be suspected come 1 there 
is no time to be lost if thou would'st silence slander." 

With unnatural violence she wrenched herself from his grasp 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 237 

and retreated step by step looking full at him. Leaves and 
brambles clung about her, a spray of the scarlet cactus-blossom 
was twisted in her girdle, and against her breast she held some 
dark object which she appeared to cherish with a jealous care. 

" Thou art Caiaphaa !" she said dreamily surveying him 
"Thou art God's great high-priest who hath become a slave 
for love of me. I have watched for thee all day and have not 
found thee, though, up at a casement yonder I saw thy wedded 
spouse, the pale daughter of Annas, weeping. Did she weep 
for thee, thinkest thou? if so 'twas strange. Who that is 
wise would shed tears for any man ! Listen, Caiaphas, thou 
who 'dost exact obedience from all the people of Jerusalem, 
the hour is come when thou must obey me !" 

Alarmed at her wild look and manner, Caiaphas went 
towards her, trying again to take her in his arms, but she 
still retreated, her eyes flashing with a fierceness that startled 
him. 

" What can I do for thee, Judith ?" he murmured, speaking 
as gently as he could, and hoping to soothe her by soft words 
" Thou knowest how willing I always am to give thee pleas- 
ure. Only I beseech thee, come with me out of this place, 
lest we be seen and spoken of " 

" All the world may see," responded Judith with an air of 
triumph " All the world may hear! I care naught. What 
is the world to me, so long as Judas still is angry ? Judas 
will not speak to me for wrath, he deems 'tis I did bring the 
' Nazarene' to death, whereas 'tis thou ! thou only. And 
thou must tell him so, thou must declare thy full part in the 
matter, for neither he nor I will bear the undeserved blame. 
He is at home sleeping ; I told him thou had'st sworn to make 
him great and famous in the land, but he answered nothing. 
I promised I would bring him news. come thou now and 
wake him thou knowest not how fast he sleeps ! and tell him 
all, tell him how thou did'st teach me to persuade him to be- 
tray his friend the ' Nazarene.' For though the ' Nazarene' is 
dead, it seems He was not altogether evil, and methinks 'tis 
pity He is dead, since Judas loved Him. I kr/ew not that his 
love was such, or of so great a tenderness, and now I puffer 
for my ignorance, for Judas will not pardon me, or look at me, 
or say as he was wont to say ' Fair sister, morning is fairer 
for thy presence !' yea, he would oft speak so, smilingly, for 
I was beautiful, the fairest woman in Judaea was I till I grew 
old !" Here she paused with a puzzled expression, her own 



238 BARABBAS 

words seemed to frighten her, but presently she went on, 
muttering to herself 

" Till I grew old, ay ! cruel age creeps on apace with us 
all, we should not stint love lest those we love be taken from 
us, we must not wait too long, Judas and I, or we shall be 
buried in our graves ere we be friends. And once shut in that 
darkness we shall never rise, not even on the waves of many 
tears !" 

Her voice sank tremulously, then suddenly it rang out clear 
and shrill. 

" See !" she exclaimed wildly. " Thus died the King !" 

And unclasping her hands from the object she had hugged 
so closely to her bosom, she held up a Cross, made of two 
small olive branches tied together with a strand of silk drawn 
out of her own girdle. 

Caiaphas staggered back, struck speechless by her words and 
the swiftness of her action, and involuntarily he made a gesture 
of repugnance and offence. She saw it and sprang up to him, 
still brandishing the Cross before his eyes. 

" Thus died the King !" she repeated with a kind of exulta- 
tion " Slain by His own high-priest on the altar of the 
world !" 

And with all the madness of her tortured brain lighting her 
looks as with fire, she stood transfigured into an unearthly love- 
liness that appalled while it fascinated her quondam lover, 
and for one absorbing moment the twain confronted each 
other as though they were restless ghosts met by moonlight, 
the Cross between them uplifted like a sign of parting, a 
mystic barrier dividing them for ever. 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 

IT was but an instant that they remained thus inert, then, 
shaking off the amazement and fear that had held him motion- 
less and dumb, Caiaphas seized the crazed girl in his arms and 
strove to snatch the Cross from her grasp. But she clung to it 
fiercely in an access of fever and frenzy ; and with a swift lithe 
spring like that of a young leopardess she again escaped from 
him and stood apart, eyeing him vengeiully yet with a wan 



A DREAV OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 239 

smile. Never had the proud priest been brought to such a 
verge of despair as now, for what was he to do with this dis- 
tracted creature, whose very presence in his private garden if 
discovered, would bring scandal on his name, ruin his charac- 
ter and degrade him from his lofty post ! Even the words she 
uttered in her madness would betray the secret of their illicit 
loves, the position was wholly intolerable, yet how was he 
to extricate himself from it ! And why did she threaten him 
with the Cross ? she who had openly declared the intensity 
of her hate for the " Nazarene" ? It might be merely the 
working of a delirious brain toying with chaotic contradictions, 
yet it troubled Caiaphas strangely. He advanced a step or two 
extending his hands in appeal. 

" Judith, come to me " he said in a low tone of mingled 
coaxing and command, " Thou art ill, distraught, and per- 
chance weary with wandering, thou knowest not what thou 
sayest. Thy father waits for thee at home, let me take thee 
to him now, surely thou would'st not break his heart and 
mine? Come !" and he ventured still nearer to her" Do I 
not love thee, Judith ? and wilt thou not trust thyself unto 
my tenderness ?" 

She looked at him strangely, her large eyes dilating with 
vague wonder. 

" Thy tenderness ?" she echoed. " What tenderness can'st 
thou boast of, Caiaphas, unless it be that of the wolf for its 
prey ? Speakest thou of love ? Thou hast not loved me, 
nor I thee, moreover there is no love left in all the world, 
'tis dead, and thou, methinks, hast slain it." Here she paused, 
passing one hand over her brow with a puzzled expression, 
" I know not how the message came to me" she continued 
murmuringly " for Judas said nothing !V 

" What message ?" asked Caiaphas softly, drawing nearer to 
her, and resolving in his own mind that he would coax her 
away from the garden by degrees " Tell me what it is *hat 
troubles thee ?" 

A faint smile crossed her lips. 

" Nay, naught troubles me !" she said " 1 have lived too 
long to grieve for bygone things. Look you, since my time the 
world is changed, old days are passed for ever, and Judaea 
is no more what it hath been. And of the message, why, 
that was strange, it told me that God lived and that Death 
was dead ! Listen !" and with a swift capriciousness that 
startled him she flung herself into his arms and leaned her 



240 BAH ABB AS 

head against his breast, looking upwards into his face " I have 
heard that now there is some curse upon us and that we shall 
never die ! 'Tis hitter, for I am tired of life, and so, surely 
art thou. We have lived long enough ; 'tis centuries since I 
was young and since thou did'st slay the ' Nazarene.' llemem- 
berest thou His shining face in death ? methought He woro 
the lightning as a crown ! But darkness came, and then I lost 
my brother Judas ; Barabbas found him afterwards, and brought 
him home." 

" Barabbas !" muttered Caiaphas, the while he held Judith 
half roughly, half caressingly in his embrace and sought to 
guide her steps imperceptibly towards the private gate leading 
out from the garden " Barabbas is a murderer I" 

("Then should'st thou be his friend'', said Judith " for 
thou art murderer likewise ! Hast thou not subtly slain the 
' Nazarene' ? 'Twas aptly planned. Caiaphas, men are as 
blind fools without reason, and none will think of blaming thee. 
And as for Judas, Judas is not dead ; he sleeps ; if he indeed 
were dead the world should know that thou had'st killed him !" 

Caiaphas frowned, and a sudden rage began to kindle itself 
in his blood against this woman he had once recklessly adored. 

" Hold thy peace, Judith !" he said fiercely ;( Thou ravest ! 
thou art unlike thyself, else should I be wroth with thee. 
Talk not so wildly of the accursed ' Nazarene,' or it may be I 
shall hate thee even as ardently as I have loved. Thou thy- 
self did'st loathe this Prophet and desire His death ; thou thy- 
self did'st mock Him ere He died ; now, out of mere woman's 
wantonness thou pratest of Him almost as if His memory were 
dear to thee ! Such folly passeth patience, but thou'rt ill and 
can'st not comprehend thine own distraction, why now ! 
what new fancy doth torment thee ?" 

For she suddenly withdrew herself from his arms, and, sigh- 
ing piteously, began to play idly with a piece of coarse rope 
that dangled loosely from her girdle. Presently untying it, she 
held it out to him. 

" Prithee take this, Caiaphas" she murmured plaintively 
"Place it among the holy treasures of the Temple, 'twill 
eerve ! 'Twas round the throat of Judas, see ! his blood doth 
stain it here!" 

He started back with a cry of horror. She came nearer, 
still with mute gestures praying him to accept the hideous gift 
ehe proffered. 

" Wilt thou not receive it ?" she asked, fixing her wild eyes 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 241 

on his alarmed and pallid countenance " Then art thou no 
true priest, for on the altar thou dost serve, there are the things 
of blood and sacrifice, and this should be amongst them. Lo ! 
it doth express the penitence of Judas, he hath done wrong 
and his remorse is great ; he prays for pardon. And I have 
told him for his comfort, that he hath not been in all to blame, 
for that it was thou, thou and the creatures of thy craft, of 
whom I was one, that did destroy the ' Nazarene." And he is 
glad, I think, for when I told him this, a light fell on him 
and he smiled, for ever did he hate the priests, and that they 
should outrage innocence and crucify a god is no great won- 
der !" 

Speechless with inward fury and despair, Caiaphas stood 
helplessly staring at her, while she in a kind of sad resignation, 
re-fastened the blood-stained cord at her own waist. Then she 
drew the roughly-made Cross from her bosom and smiled. 

" This is a strange charm !" she said softly " It makes the 
old world new. In rays of light this same sign fell on Judas 
as he slept and seemed to give him peace. I found these olive- 
branches in Gethsemane, and tied them thus together, if it 
could comfort Judas, so shall it comfort me !" 

And raising it to her lips she kissed it. 

"Judith Judith !" cried the high-priest desperately " Wilt 
thou kiss the symbol of ignoble death ?" 

" Why not ?" said she " if Death thereby is dead ? I told 
thee of the message, 'twas that God lived and Death was 
dead. We wept for Judas, believing he was gone from us into 
the grave for ever, but now we know he lives we shall be 
comforted. ; Tis a new wisdom we have learned, albeit there 
was something sweet in the old ignorance. For when we were 
sure that we should die, it mattered little whether we lived 
well or ill, a few years and all was at an end, sins were not 
counted then, but now, we dare not sin lest we be burdened 
with the memory of wrong through everlasting time. Methinks 
there is a misery in this joy of endless life ! what will become 
of thee, Caiaphas ? of me ? hall we forget our sins, thinkest 
thou ? or must we evermore remember ?" 

He met her large appealing eyes, then gently advancing, 
encircled her with one arm. 

"Judith, beloved Judith" he whispered "As thou art 

dear to me, do not torment thyself and me with these wild 

fancies. Come, I will not force thee homeward against thy 

will, come within the palace, and I will hide thee where thou 

L q 21 



242 BARABBAS 

knowest of, the secret nook where we have passed so many 
hours of love" 

" Flatter not thyself I ever loved thee!" she said with a re- 
turning flash of her former pride and scorn " Men were my 
slaves, and thou the most abased of all !" She paused, shud- 
dering violently, then went on in feeble tones, " But that 
was long ago, when I was young ; rememberest thou how fair 
I was ? with eyes like jewels and hair like gold ?" 

" Thou art not changed, Judith" murmured Caiaphas, 
pressing her to his heart with involuntary force and passion 
" Thou art as thou wert ever, the most beautiful of women 1" 

"Thou dost mock me," she sighed, leaning against him 
languidly " But I heed not what thou sayest, as I never loved 
thee. No man did ever move me to a sorrow for his sake not 
even poor Barabbas who in very truth did worship me. Out 
of his love he slew Gabrias who had grown too boastful of my 
favour, and for his crime he suffered Jong imprisonment, 
yet I cared naught ! If men are fools they needs must pay 
the price for folly." 

She roused herself and shook back her long hair over her 
shoulders. 

" Come !" she said " Come and wake Judas. He has slept 
a long long while, and it will soon be morning." 

She moved swiftly and with an air of resolve over the grass, 
and Caiaphas, relieved that she seemed bent on departure, 
made an elaborate pretence of accompanying her. Her exqui- 
site form, light, supple and stately, glided along before his eyes 
like some fair spectre, and the fascination of her beauty was 
such that he had much ado to keep himself from snatching 
her in his arms, all distraught as she was, and covering her 
with the last kisses of despairing love and farewell. But the 
fear of discovery held his passions in check, and he was care- 
ful to walk beside her with an assumption of protecting dignity 
and compassion, so that if any chance beholder should spy him, 
he would be able to explain that he had found her wandering 
through his gardens in a state of fever and distraction, and that 
he was merely fulfilling his duty as a priest in taking her back 
to her father's house. 

Suddenly she stopped and surveyed him with frowning sus- 
picion. 

" Thou wilt make full confession to Judas ?" she demanded 
" Thou wilt declare how it was thy scheme and thine alone 
ihat bought to death the ' Nazarene' ? Thou wilt absolve him 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 243 

from the sin that troubles him ? the sin whereunto we both 
persuaded him ?" 

He looked away from her. 

" Be at peace I pray thee, Judith," he murmured evasively 
" I will say what I can" 

" Nay, it is not what thou can'st say but what thou must 
say !" cried Judith excitedly " Thou can'st say any lie, thou 
must say the truth I Thou cruel priest ! Thou shalt not 
darken my brother's name and fame by thy treachery, thou 
shalt not screen thyself behind him in this history. Thou, the 
priest, did'st hate the god, if any god there was within thy 
Victim, and thou did'st slay Him. The very people would 
have set Him free had'st thou not bidden me cry out ' Crucify 
Him' to keep them in their vengeful humour. I tell thee thou 
shalt confess this thing, I will not go from heuce till thou 
dost promise me, Judas waits for us at home, swear to me 
thou wilt tell him all !" 

Driven to desperation, and bethinking himself that after all, 
Judas was dead, thoush his distraught sister would not realise 
it, Caiaphas answered hurriedly, 

" Be it as thou wilt, Judith. I swear !" 

She peered at him distrustfully, her eyes glittering with a 
sparkle of malevolence. 

" I do not believe thee !" she said deliberately " Thou 
can'st so aptly play the spy and traitor that thou art not to be 
trusted. If thou wilt be true to thy word for once, swear to 
me by this !" 

And she again held up the Cross before him. At the sud- 
denly renewed sight of it such a fury seized him that for the 
moment he lost all control over himself. 

" Darest thou thus taunt me 1" he cried " Thou art not 
Judith Iscariot, but some devil in her aspect ! Crazed fool or 
fiend, thou shalt no longer provoke me !" 

And closing with her, he endeavoured to violently wrench 
the offending Symbol from her hands, the while she fought 
for its retention with the breathless rage and tenacity of some 
savage creature, till in the struggle, the Cross bent and snapped 
in twain. At this, she gave a cry of despair, and snatching 
her dagger from her girdle, sprang upon her priestly lover and 
stabbed him with a furious thrust that sent him reeling. 
Staggering 11 backward, he fell senseless on the ground, the blood 
gushing freely from his wound, and she, stooping over him, 
Btared at her own work in a dazed, wild wonder. Then, drop- 



2M BARABBAS 

pins both the dagger and the fragments of the Cross upon his 
bleeding body, she rushed away in frantic fear, and fled, like 
a phantom of the moon and shadow, out into the brooding 
silence of the night. 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

MEANTIME, around the holy sepulchre the guard kept vigi- 
lant watch. Behind it and on either side, armed men paced 
evenly to and fro, in front of it the fierce and martial Galbus 
stood at the doorway of his tent, leaning upon his tall lance 
and surveying the scenery around him. There was a singular 
soft freshness in the air, a bland and soothing perfume, as 
though the breathings of a thousand flowers were floating over 
the land on the drifting wings of a lazy southern wind. The 
moon, airily rolling through the clear ether like a golden 
bubble, cast long mellow beams upon the piled-up glistening 
rocks of the sacred tomb and the burnt brown turf that 
sparsely covered the little hills, the stars, dimmed in lustre 
by this greater radiance, seemed wandering through a labyrinth 
of light mist and rainbow-tinted haloes. A great calm pre- 
vailed ; the small pennon on the top of Galbus's tent, hung 
limp without the faintest flutter; a bush of myrtle close by 
had such a stillness in its leaves that it looked like an artificial 
semblance of itself, deftly carved and coloured by some in- 
genious human craftsman. Not a sound could be heard, save 
the muffled tread of the soldiers' sandalled feet, and Galbus, 
somewhat oppressed by the silence as well as by the heat of 
the atmosphere, began to grumble to himself sotto-voce for 
want of anything better to do. 

" How they will laugh in Rome at this folly !" he said 
" Did any one ever dream the like ! I, Galbus, a man who 
hath seen war. one who hath counted his ten corpses to a 
round of fighting, set here to watch that a corpse escape not ! 
By the gods ! The suspicious imagining of these Jew priests 
doth pass all patience ; they deem that the poor, wild, half- 
starved-looking followers of the crucified ' Nazarene ' will steal 
His body, forgetting that it would need at least half-a-dozen 
men of stout sinew to move so much as yonder stone that 
closeth up the grave, and even then 'twould be displaced with 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 245 

difficulty. Well, well ! The night will soon be gone and this 
crazy business finished ; 'twill be as I say, matter for laughter 
ia Rome when I tell them how I and fourteen picked men out 
of my hundred were forced to guard a poor dead body lest it 
should rise again." 

Lifting his helmet to cool his brows, he rubbed his eyes and 
yawned. 

" Were I to sleep now," he soliloquised " yon crafty 
Caiaphas, discovering it, would manage so as to lose me my 
post. Was ever such a petulant priest ! and subtle therewithal, 
even as Volpian, he who doth serve Diana's altar in Home, and 
out of purest zeal, doth ravish many a fair virgin ! They're 
all alike, these so-called ' holy ' men, no son of mine shall 
ever be a priest I warrant ! This was the crime of the dead 
'Nazarene' from all that I can gather, He sought to do 
away with priestcraft, a mighty task, Jove knoweth ! And 
now I call to mind yon aged soul who prayed here in the 
morning for his ' little maid ' the feeble fool ! he met me in 
the town yonder, a-sliaking like a wind-blown reed for joy 
' Good sir !' cried he, ' the little maid is saved !' And then he 
swore, with tears, that the fever left her at the very hour he made 
petition to yon sealed-up tomb ! Heaven help him for a crazed 
frail creature I the superstitions of these country folk are 
strange and sometimes devilish, nevertheless I hear on all sides 
that this young Prophet out of Nazareth was a good man, and 
pitiful. By my soul !" and he yawned again " 'Tis a night for 
peaceful slumber, yet I may not drowse, lest while I close my 
eyes, unheard-of powers disturb the air " 

"Galbus! Galbus! Hist! Galbus !" 

" What now ?" he answered sharply, as the soldier who had 
thus called him hurriedly approached " Why leavest thou thy 
post ?" 

" Fidius is there," said the young man apologetically, as he 
paused to salute his superior officer " I called thee so that thou 
should' st listen." 

" Listen? To what?" demanded Galbus impatiently " There 
i no sound but thy gruff voice and mine. Thou art a dreamer, 
Maximus, thy mother told me so." 

Maximus, a tall stalwart Roman of handsome face and figure, 
smiled deprecatingly, but at the same time held up his hand to 
enjoin attention. 

" Nay, I dream not, Galbus ; I pray thee hearken ! 'tis some 
unknown bird that sings !" 

21* 



246 S ARABS AS 

The grim centurion stared at him, half in indignation, half 
in surprise. 

" Bird !" he echoed " There are few birds in Palestine I 
warrant thee ! and what there are must be as dry-throated as 
the locusts in the corn." 

" Hush !" whispered Maximus " It begins again !" 

And before Galbus could utter another word, a silvery ripple 
of music floated towards him, a flow of gurgling notes, full 
and pure and honey-sweet, notes such as no nightingale in 
moonlit woods ever sang even in the most ardent time of nest- 
ing tenderness. The amazement on the centurion's face deep- 
ened into rapture, grasping his lance firmly with both hands 
he leaned against it silently listening, and lost in wonder. The 
hidden bird sang on ; and it seemed as if some wondrous 
meaning was enclosed within its song, for the fascination of 
striving to follow the thread of its rich rhythm intensified with 
every sweet tone that sounded on the still air. All at once it 
ceased, but its broken melody was taken up by a companion 
singer who had evidently found a resting-place within the 
bush of myrtle that grew close by the sacred tomb. This 
second bird warbled even more rapturously than the first, 
and while the clear torrent of tune poured forth passion to 
the silence another soldier hastily advanced, eagerly exclaim- 
ing* 

" Galbus ! Hearest thou this music ?" 

Galbus started, . . . there was a strange moisture in his 
eyes, he had been lost in thought, and the face of his little 
daughter who had died when barely three years of age had 
flitted or appeared to flit for a moment between him and the 
glittering moon. The sight of a second man wandering away 
from his post served as a timely check to his emotions and he 
struck the butt-end of his lance into the ground with a well- 
affected air of anger. 

" By the gods ! Can'st thou not hear a bird sing, without 
running hither like a prattling babe to tell me of it ? Back to 
thy place, and quickly ! Knowest thou not that we are bound 
to keep guard to-night with more than usual circumspection ? 
and shall we all be scattered like sheep at the twittering of 
birds ? Maximus, be ashamed ! Thou hast set a bad example ; 
get hence, thou too, and pay closer heed to thy duty, who 
knows whether there may not be sorcery in this singing !" 

A flush of vexation mounted to the brows of the young 
Maximus at the implied reproach, but he said nothing, and 



A DREAM OF TEE WORLD'S TRAGEDT 24? 

immediately retired. His post was not more than three or foui 
yards from where Galbus stood, and feeling somewhat weary, 
he sat down inside one of the tents to rest. There, leaning hit 
head on his hand, he still listened to the sweet chirping voices 
that now sounded louder and clearer than ever. The othd 
soldier also went back to his place, crestfallen, but obedient 
and Galbus was left to himself, to gaze at the sailing moon, and 
drink in the magical tenderness of the chorus that floated round 
and round the quiet sepulchre of the Crucified in ever- widen 
ing circles of delicious harmony. And presently, all the met. 
ou guard, rather than disturb such music by the clank of theii- 
armour or the tread of their sandals, sat within their tents, all 
silent, all enthralled into languid peace by a mystic and 
imperceptibly deepening spell. 

" 'Tis wondrous, I will not deny it," murmured Galbus 
after a while, seating himself also just within the door of his 
own small pavilion and composing himself to fresh attention 
" First it was one bird, and now it seems as if there were 
twenty. Never did I hear such singing in Palestine ! They 
may be birds of passage, yet from whence would they come, 
and whither would they speed ? And wherefore should they 
choose such a resting-place as these arid hills? or such an 
hour for tuning up their songs as now ?" 

He sat absorbed, his mind soothed and satisfied by the 
delicate pipings of the invisible little throats that seemed as if 
they must burst with the fulness and delight of song. 

And, further off, there was another listener to the marvellous 
music, one whose presence there that night was totally un- 
suspected by the guard. This was Barabbas. He lay unseen 
in the hollow of the hill behind the sepulchre, and heard the 
melting melody in rapt wonder. He knew the country round 
Jerusalem well, he had known it from boyhood ; but he had 
never heard sweet singing-birds till now. He could not un- 
derstand it ; it was to him much more than what was called a 
miracle. The air was so very still, the little trees were so 
motionless, the very blades of stunted grass so stiffly upright, 
that the rippling notes seemed produced by some power un- 
earthly. It might have been the liquid sounding of fairy 
flutes in the air, or dainty arpeggi struck from golden strings, 
only that the voices were most truly bird-like, full of nightin- 
gale-warbles and luscious trills. And by and by the same 
sense of peace and happiness stole on the tired soul of Barab- 
bas as had come to the war-worn centurion on guard , gradually 



248 BARABBAS 

he grew lost in a sort of blissful dream, scarcely knowing what 
he thought or what he felt. When he had told Melchior of 
his intent to keep secret vigil near the tomb of the " Nazarene,' 
that incomprehensible personage had looked grave, but had not 
forbidden him, only saying gently 

" Take heed, lest when the Master cometh, He find you 
sleeping !" 

This was a strange saying! nevertheless here he was; 
determined not to sleep, but to remain broadly, fully awake, so 
that he might be able to testify in plain language as to what 
happened, if indeed anything should happen. Yet he was 
conscious of a drowsiness in the air, of a lulling rhythm in 
the dulcet singing of the unseen feathered choir, that was in- 
expressibly soothing, and he found difficulty in resisting the 
tempting languor that by slow and insensible degrees began to 
take possession of him. He tried to think of various practical 
things, of the terror which had evidently seized the disciples 
of the dead " Nazarene," causing them to hide themselves in 
the lowest quarters of the city, and entirely give up any attempt 
to visit the guarded tomb of their perished Master, of the ex- 
treme precautions of Caiaphas, of the continued indisposition 
of Pilate, of the suicide of Judas Iscariot, then, of the 
strayed Judith, . . . and here his mind recoiled upon itself 
as it were, with inward trembling. The thought of her was 
singularly depressing and unwelcome to him just at this 
moment, he could not have told why, but so it was. It 
would be well for her if she were dead, he told himself sorrow- 
fully, better for her, a thousand times, better even for him. 
He would be glad to die, he thought, that curious sense of 
detachment from earth and utter indifference to existence had 
come to him as it comes at certain epochs to us all, when 
death with its darkness and deep silence, seems a sweeter, 
kinder, and more valuable boon than life. 

He flung himself back full length in the turfy hollow and 
lay staring up at the stars and the moon. How those birds 
sang ! How sweetly the fragrant wind breathed through tho 
dried and faintly rustling grass ! He stretched his arms out 
on either side of him with a sigh of lazy comfort, and pres- 
ently took a singular pleasure in observing that he had un- 
consciously assumed the attitude of one preparing to be cruci- 
fiecT He began to wonder idly how it would feel if huge nails 
were driven forcibly through his open palms, as had been done 
to his former comrade Hanan, and to Him they called the 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 249 

"Nazarene." Involuntarily closing his fingers on a tuft of 
grass he suddenly felt that he had grasped something foreign 
to the soil, and looking to see what he held, he found he had 
pulled up a small bell-shaped blossom, pure white and delicately 
scented. He examined it attentively ; he had never beheld its 
like before. But there was such a listless heaviness upon him 
that he had no desire to lift himself up and search for more 
such flowers, had he done so he would have witnessed a 
fairy-like and strange spectacle. For, from base to summit of 
the hills around, the brown turf was rapidly being covered up 
out of sight by masses of snowy bloom, breaking upwards like 
white foam, thousands and thousands of blossoms started 
from the trembling earth, that earth which panted with the 
knowledge of a Divine Redemption, and yearned to pay its 
glorious Master homage. And the hidden birds sang on, 
sweetly, passionately, triumphantly ; and round the holy sepul- 
chre the soldiers nodded on the benches within their tents, half 
sleeping, wholly dreaming, of love, of home, of kindred, of dear 
and precious memories such as never were expressed or written. 
Only the young Maximus forced himself to keep wide awake ; 
the reproach of Galbus had stung his military pride, and he 
resolved to be more than doubly vigilant in his watch. So, 
though he longed to fling himself down upon the turf and rest 
a while, he resisted the oppression that lay heavy upon him, 
and rising, walked slowly to and fro, glancing now and then 
dubiously and half compassionately at his drowsing comrades. 
He was not inclined to rouse them, he meant to win some 
special praise for keener vigilance than they. His tall figure cast 
a gigantic shadow in the moonlight, as he paced leisurely up 
and down, and he watched this spectral exaggeration of him- 
self in a curiously philosophic mood. What kind of a world 
would it have been, he thought, if the shadow of man had 
never fallen upon it? Drearnly pondering this wholly un- 
answerable question, he was all at once startled out of his 
reverie by a great light that fell in one keen, dazzling flash 
straight i'rom the heavens, sweeping the shadow of himself into 
naught, and playing about him in running, intertwisting rings 
of flame ! Amazed, he looked up, and saw in the east a vivid 
rose-red radiance that widened out swiftly even as he gazed 
upon it, while across the ruddy tint there appeared bright 
perpendicular bars of gold like a vision of the gates of Eden. 
Shaking oft 7 the strange stupor that numbed his senses and 
held him for a moment inert, he sprang quickly to the side of 



250 BARABBAS 

Galbus who, seated in his tent and leaning against his spear 
was all but fast asleep. 

" Gdbus ! Galbus !" 

Galbus at once leaped fiercely erect with a defiant look as 
though threatening with death any one who should presume 
to say that he had slumbered. 

Maximus, trembling, seized him by the arm, and half in 
terror, half in expectancy, pointed eastward. 

" Galbus, the watch is ended ! Lo, the Dawn 1" 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 

GALBUS stared wildly with dazzled eyes. 

" The dawn ? ... the dawn, sayest thou ?" he muttered 
thickly " Nay, nay ! . . . never did dawn break thus strangely !" 
And his bronzed features grew pale. " 'Tis fire ! ... or light- 
ning! . . . Maxinius, Maximus, my sight fails me, . . . 
yonder glory hath a marvel in it ! . . . 'tis blinding to the 
sight! . . . ye gods, look! . . . look there!" 

Dropping his lance, he stretched out both arms towards the 
sky, losing breath and utterance in the excess of his amazement 
and fear ; Maximus. speechless too, clung to him, gazing with 
equal dread and wonder at the terrific splendour that cast its 
glory round them and illumined all the visible earth. For 
now, out of the burning centre of that eastward blaze of crim- 
son, there rose up a double, fan-shaped, diamond-shining white- 
ness as of huge unfolding misty wings, towering aloft, these 
aerial pinions extended towards the south, while from the north, 
another exactly similar and equally dazzling Appearance made 
itself visible against a gleaming background of' smooth gold. 
Then, all at once, with a sudden sharp tremor the earth 
shook ; and there came the impetuous rush aud whirl of a 
mighty wind that bent the trees like blades of grass and seemed 
to scatter the very stars in heaven like a swarm of frightened 
fireflies, and with the surging sound that mysterious Winged 
Whiteness began to sweep forward at the swift and flashing 
pace of lightning 1 

" Galbus, Galbus !" gasped Maximus, falling down and cov- 
ering his face in a paroxysm of fear " Kneel kneel ! for 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 251 

we must die ! The gods descend ! Behold them where they 
come!" 

With straining eyeballs and panting breath, Galbus gave one 
upward frenzied stare, . . . his swooning senses could but 
just dimly realise that surely the powers of Heaven were upon 
him, and that death, sudden and relentless, must be his inevi- 
table fate. How could mortal strength uphold mortal man at 
such a sight ! . . . how could human vision bear the fearful 
dazzlement and marvel of what he, for one dizzy second, gazed 
upon! . . . Two majestic Shapes, the transfigured and ethereal 
semblances of a glorified humanity, flashing with a brightness 
celestial, a splendour invincible, grew up, as it were, in stately 
stature out of the molten-golden east, and seemingly impelled 
by wind and fire, floated meteor-like through space, and to- 
gether silently descended at the closed tomb of the " Naza- 
rene." One of these supernal Beings appeared robed in white 
fire his lustrous countenance, gleaming as with lightning, 
shone from between pale glistening locks of gold on which a 
halo rested, like a crown. As this glorious Messenger touched 
earth, the ground rocked, and the divided air recoiled upon 
itself with a roll and a roar of thunder. Prone on the turf 
Galbus fell senseless and dead for the time being, . . . and in 
that one thrilling moment no living man beheld the splendid 
declaration of the Divine, save one, Barabbas. He, when 
the great light flashed around him, when the whirlwind and 
the thunder swept surgingly across the hills, had crawled forth 
from his hiding-place and now, crouching on the grass in a 
dumb agony of trembling, stared at the supernatural sight 
unforbidden for a brief space, too dazzled to realise all its 
meaning and majesty, and believing that he must be wrapt in 
some wild and glittering dream, . . . when, even as he looked, 
a sharp brilliance, like the cutting sting of a lash struck him 
across the eyes, and he, too, swayed blindly back and plunged 
into the darkness of a swoon that was like death. 

Quivering to its deepest underground fibres, the earth sup- 
ported the glowing forms of God's ethereal envoys ; together 
they stood, the fire of their white transparent wings quenching 
the silver reflex of the sinking moon, their radiant faces 
turned towards the closed sepulchre wherein their Master slept. 
Again the great wind rushed in resonant harp-like chords 
through heaven, again the ground rocked and trembled, and 
again the thunder sounded its deep trump of wakening elo- 
quence. And all the mystic voices of the air seemed whisper- 



252 B ARABS AS 

ing the great Truths about to be made manifest ; " Death is 
dead ; Life is Eternal ! God is Love !" 

Like kindled flames upon the sombre soil, the Angels of the 
Message waited side by side, their heavenly eyes luminous with 
Divine rapture, and the light upon their brows flinging glorious 
reflections far up in twinkling points of radiance to the van- 
ishing stars. The dawn was near, the strong suspense of 
Nature was at its keenest pitch, it seemed as if what we know 
of Creation could endure the strain no more, as if the world, 
the sun, the moon, the visible planets, must melt away like 
drops of dew in the burning fervour of so vast an ecstasy of 
expectation. The dawn was near ! that Dawn which would 
be like no other dawn that ever heralded a day, the dawn of 
all the hope, the joy, the faith, the love that waits upon the prom- 
ised certainty of life immortal ; that priceless promise given to 
those who are willing to accept it without question or mistrust, 
and who, loving their fellow-men better than themselves, in 
God and for God, touch heavenly ecstasy while yet on earth. 

And now a deep silence reigned. All the soldiers of the 
watch lay stretched on the ground unconscious, as though 
struck dead by lightning, the previous mysterious singing of 
the birds had ceased ; and only the lambent quivering of the 
wing-like glory surrounding the angelic Messengers, seemed to 
make an expressed though unheard sound as of music. Then, 
... in the midst of the solemn hush, . . . the great stone 
that closed the tomb of the Crucified trembled, . . . and was 
suddenly thrust back like a door flung open in haste for the 
exit of a King, . . . and lo ! . . . a Third great Angel joined 
the other two ! . . . Sublimely beautiful He stood, the Risen 
from the Dead 1 ... gazing with loving eyes on all the swoon- 
ing sleeping world of men ; the same grand Countenance that 
had made a glory of the Cross of Death, now, with a smile 
of victory, gave poor Humanity the gift of everlasting Life ! 
The grateful skies brightened above Him, earth exhaled its 
choicest odours through every little pulsing leaf and scented 
herb and tree ; Nature exulted in the touch of things eternal, 
and the dim pearly light of the gradually breaking morn 
fell on all things with a greater purity, a brighter blessedness 
than ever had invested it before. The Man Crucified and 
Risen, now manifested in Himself the mystic mingling of God 
in Humanity, and taught that for the powers of the Soul set 
free from sin, there is no limit, no vanquishment, no end. No 
more eternal partings for those who on the earth should learn to 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 25S 

love each other, no more the withering hopelessness of de- 
spair, the only " death" now possible to redeemed mortality 
heing " the bondage of sin" voluntarily entered into and pre- 
ferred by the unbelieving. And from this self-wrought, self- 
chosen doom not even a God can save. 

Reverently bent were the radiant heads of the angelic 
Beings that had descended in full flight from Heaven ; but He 
who stood erect between them, tall and majestically fair, looked 
upward once, then straight across the silent landscape and, 
stretching forth His hands, seemed by the tenderness of the ges- 
ture to place His benediction on the world. A light grey mist was 
rising incense-like from the eastern edge of the horizon, the 
crimson glory lately flaming there had paled into the faint pink 
of a blush rose-petal, and a soothing shadow stole impercepti- 
bly over the scene, toning down into silver lines the departing 
rays of that supernatural splendour which had been like the 
beginning of a new creation. Slowly, very slowly, the tran- 
scendent brightness round the form of the Risen Redeemer 
faded into air, His Human Shape became more and more 
clearly defined, till almost He looked with the same aspect He 
had worn in the hall of Pilate, when man's law had condemned 
Him to suffer man's death. Only there rested a sublimer 
glory on His countenance : the expression of a power omnipo- 
tent ; a beauiy terrific ; a knowledge supernal that made Him 
wonderful even in the sight of His serving-angels of Heaven. 
To them presently His high command was silently expressed, 
for one bright Being vanished like a melting cloud within the 
opened sepulchre, and the other, moving to the great stone of 
burial that had been rolled away, rested upon it, a shining 
Wonder, clothed in white wings. 

Meanwhile He who had proved Death to be but another 
name for Life, began to pace" pensively to and fro among the 
tangled shrubs and vines that in their careless and untrained 
luxuriance gave to the otherwise dreary burial-spot, something 
of a wild beauty. He moved as though He loved the world, 
even to the very blades of grass His feet passed gently over ; 
the leaves upon their branches bent towards Him as taking 
health and joy from His fair Presence, and fearlessly seeking 
His blessing. And ever as He moved, His aspect grew more 
human ; out of the secret depths of space He seemed to clothe 
Himself anew with the fleeting semblance of mortality. Now 
and again He paused, and gazed at the senseless forms around 
Him of all those who had been set to guard His resting-place, 
22 



254 BAR ABB AS 

and then the mystic watchfulness and deep compassion of His 
6yes reflected the vast, impersonal and changeless love which 
emanates from the Divine alone. Passing slowly among them 
with noiseless tread, the while they lay inert, unconscious of 
His nearness (even as we, at this time, in our blind and selfish 
torpor are unconscious or indifferent when He comes), He 
presently approached the spot where the sinner who should, in 
justice, have suffered instead of Him had fallen as one dead, 
Barabbas. Stretched flat upon the turf, with arms extended 
on either side of him as though the earth were a cross and he 
the criminal nailed to it, his dark countenance and closed eyes 
fronting the sky, the erring, passion-haunted man was ready for 
some punishment, some instant withering doom. Stained with 
the crime of murder, branded as a thief, and full of a thousand 
follies and germinating sins, what had he done that he should 
merit all the pity and the pardon that flashed upon him like a 
glory from the tender glance of the risen Christ 1 What had 
he done? why, nothing in truth, he could, he would do 
nothing worthy. Only a thought of love had been in his dark 
soul for the sorrows of the Man Crucified, and he had shed 
tears for the sufferings of the holiest Innocence that ever was 
maligned by human malice ; he had longed to understand, to 
know, to serve this splendid Ideal of the Ages, and this was 
all. Yet this sufficed to bring the glorious Master to his side ; 
though as that Master looked upon him, a shade of sorrow 
darkened the beautiful Divine brows, the shadow and pre- 
sentiment of what was yet to be. There, made visible in Barab- 
bas, was the symbol of the animal man, blindly conscious of the 
creative Soul of the Universe, yet doubting all manifestations 
of that Soul, and thrusting his own narrow fears and scepti- 
cisms forward to obstruct and bar out the very presence of the 
Eternal. And beside him, in strange contrast, stood the jmre 
and stately embodiment of the Spirit of God made human, 
the example of a perfect manhood ; the emblem of life and 
the symbol of Genius, which, slandered and tortured, and slain 
and buried, rises eternally triumphant over evil and death. 

A faint sigh stirred the air, the sigh of One who knew 
that by the pitiless will of Man, He should be wronged and 
spiritually re-crucified for ages ; and then the risen Light of 
the World turned away and glided among the little trembling 
trees, His figure gradually becoming a mere misty outline, 
vague and undefinable as though it were the floating shadow of 
a dream. Two hours had yet to pass ere the sun would rise, 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 255 

meanwhile a fragrant freshness sweetened the breaking dawn, 
and all Nature remained absorbed in a sacred silence of en- 
raptured worship, conscious that the Master and Lord of Life 
was now, as once before in oldest time, " walking in His garden 
in the cool of the day." 



CHAPTER XL. 

SHUDDERING in every limb with pain and chilly fear, Barab- 
bas presently awoke from his long swoon. Something had hap- 
pened, but what ? He rubbed his aching eyes and lifted 
himself into a half-sitting posture, looking uneasily about him. 
Dully he considered his position ; he was in his old place on the 
hill behind the sepulchre ; the place where he had watched, 
until until, as it seemed, a strange thing had chanced to him 
which now he could not quite remember. A dream had daz- 
zled him, he thought, and scared his senses from him. He 
imagined he had seen two supernatural Shapes, formed as it 
were, out of floating pyramidal fire, descending near the tomb 
of the " Nazarene," but ere he had had time to look upon 
them straightly, a dizziness had seized him, and he saw no 
more. 

" Take heed, lest when the Master cometh, He find you 
sleeping" These words, spoken to him by the man Melchior, 
ere he had started to take up his self-imposed vigil, recurred to 
him unpleasantly now and troubled him ; had he slept after all ? 
And had the " Master" come? 

Rising slowly to his feet, he gazed from left to right of him ; 
' all things seemed the same. The tents of the soldiers on guard 
gleamed whitely in the pallid grey of dawn ; the men had evi- 
dently not yet left their posts, though the night was fully past 
and the sense of sunrise was in the air. There was something 
peculiarly beautiful in the clear freshness of that wondrous 
morning. The world appeared new ; as though it were con- 
scious of the victory of the Soul over Death, and Barabbas, 
pained and puzzled though he was, felt the comfort of the deep 
tranquillity and restfulness around him. Dismissing his fore- 
bodings, he began to think he would boldly go to the sepulchre, 
and seek out Galbus to ask him how he had fared during the 



256 BARABBAS 

night, then, on further reflection he hesitated, for if, after all, 
anything unusual should have occurred, he, Barabbas, might be 
suspected of having had some share in it. While he stood thus 
irresolute, soft approaching steps startled him, and he quickly 
crouched down again behind a bend of the hill where he could 
see without being seen. Three women were coming up the 
road from the city, the foremost one of the group was Mary 
Magdalene. Her head was bent sorrowfully ; she moved list- 
lessly and with an air of deep melancholy, in her hands she 
carried flowers and sweet herbs, and delicate odours seemed to 
be exhaled from her garments as she moved. She and her 
companions exchanged no words ; they all seemed stricken by 
the silence of an absolute despair. As they passed by the spot 
where Barabbas lay concealed, he lifted himself cautiously up 
to look after them and wondered whether it would be safe or 
prudent to follow in their track. They appeared like misty 
phantoms floating along in the pearly hues of dawn ; but he 
could see the golden glint of the Magdalen's hair flash like a 
eunbeam as she turned round by the shelving rocks of the 
sepulchre and disappeared. Poor, wistful, woebegone women, 
lie thought ! they went to visit the dead, the dead " Man of 
Nazareth" whose wondrous smile of love and pardon would 
never lighten their lonely lives again ! Alas, for them, that in 
their clinging faithfulness, they should of sud and morbid choice 
renew their useless anguish by gazing once more upon the 
cruelly unflinching stillness and rigidity of the frozen monster 
Death which never yields its once-gained prey for all the clamour 
of tender women's tears ! So Barabbas mused compassionately, 
though his mind was swayed between doubt and fear whenever 
the recollection of his last night's " dream" occurred to him, 
that dream of angels which had blinded him with its excess of 
light. 

Suddenly a piercing cry echoed through the silence, and two 
of the women came rushing back along the road in a panic of 
haste and fear. Throwing personal precaution to the winds. 
Barabbas sprang out from his hiding-place and confronted 
them. 

"What now?" he demanded excitedly "Speak speak! 
What news?" 

" He is risen ! He is risen !" they cried, their eager voices 
struggling together for quickest utterance " The seals of the 
tomb are broken, the stone is rolled away, and an Angel of 
the Lord is there ! He is risen 1" 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 257 

Trembling with agitation, Barabbas thrust himself in their 
path as they strove to run past him. 

" Ye are mad 1 surely ye are mad I" he exclaimed 
" Whither go ye ?" 

Impatiently they pointed towards the city. 

" Yonder ! to summon His disciples. Go ! see the place 
where the Lord lay ! None shall hinder thee ; the keepers are 
as dead men. He is risen ! He is risen !" 

And they pursued their swift course down the road as though 
impelled along by invisible wings. 

Barabbas waited no longer, but ran impetuously at a head- 
long pace towards the sepulchre, every pulse in his body beating 
with feverish excitement. As he approached it however, he 
involuntarily slackened his speed, stricken with wonder and 
affright at the strange scene. It was true ! the " keepers" 
were " as dead men ;" Galbus and his band of soldiers were 
all prone upon the ground like corpses flung there after a battle, 
and what had seemed the impossible had been effected, in 
that the tomb was open, and the huge stone rolled away. And 
the Angel of whom the women spoke? Barabbas could see 
no Angel, though he fancied that on the displaced stone there 
glittered a singular bright light that made it shine like a block 
of polished gold. He rubbed his eyes dubiously : such marvels 
made him distrust the evidence of his own senses, yet, there 
at the entrance of the opened tomb, lay something human, 
something in distress, the fallen form of the Magdalen who 
seemed to have swooned. Barabbas would have approached 
her, but an invisible force held him to the spot where he 
stood, smitten with strong awe and fear, and he dared not 
advance a step. And while he yet looked, he saw her move, 
'and presently she rose up feebly, and with tottering steps 
stooped towards the sepulchre as though to enter in. Then all 
suddenly a calm Voice sounded on the deep silence, a Voice 
of pure unearthly music sweeter than all we know of sweetest 
sound. 

" Woman, why weepest thou f" 

Thrilled with amazement and dread, Barabbas saw her sink 
upon her knees and raise her hands in passionate supplication. 

" Because" . . . and her trembling accents were broken by 
low weeping " they have taken away my Lord and I know 
not where they have laid Him !" 

A deep silence followed. The golden glory vanished from 
the stone that had been rolled away. and another light began 
22* 



258 BARABBAS 

to shine the first heraldic blazon of the rising sun. Un- 
answered and uncomforted, the Magdalen hid her face in her 
clasped hands, she had seen a vision of angels ; one at the 
head and one at the foot of the sepulchred niche where her 
Master had reposed in temporary death, but what are all the 
angels in paradise worth to Love, if the Beloved be missing? 
And stricken to the heart by despair and loneliness, she wept 
on, crouched at the entrance of the vacant tomb, her slight 
frame shaken by the tempest of her grief for the loss of the 
dead outward Semblance of Him whose pardon had reclaimed 
her life. But while she thus gave way to the abandonment 
of sorrow, the enchained spectator of the scene, Barabbas, 
suddenly became conscious of a majesty and a terror filling the 
air; some great Splendour suggested itself vaguely like the 
thunderous thrill of the atmosphere preceding a storm. Faint 
and trembling he felt rather than saw that a Figure was ad- 
vancing from the sheltering shadow of the few trees that sur- 
rounded the sepulchre, . . . and slowly, slowly, in a mortal 
anguish of dread and expectation he turned, and beheld in 
very truth, in very life, . . . the " Nazarene" ! He, the 
Crucified, the Slain and Buried, stood there living, looking 
even as He looked before He had been nailed upon the Cross 
to die, the same, the same in every feature, as human-seeming 
as Humanity itself, save that His vesture appeared woven out 
of glittering mist and fire 1 Breathless, giddy, and unable to 
articulate the feeblest cry, Barabbas stared upon Him, fully 
recognising the fair beauty of His countenance, the lustrous 
love and wisdom of His eyes, yet afraid to believe this Miracle 
a Truth. In aerial stateliness He passed by without sound, and 
glided, a Kingly Spirit in mortal aspect, to where the Magda- 
len wept alone. There, pausing, He spoke, His dulcet accents 
charming the stillness to responsive pulsations of harmony 

" Woman, why weepest thouf Whom seekest thou?" 

Moving restlessly she half turned round and gazed vaguely 
up through the obscuring cloud of her tears and falling hair, 
only seeing that some one, she knew not who, stood beside her, 
questioning her as to her cause of grief. And with a shudder- 
ing sigh she drooped her head again and answered wearily 

" Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou 
hast laid Him, and I will take Him away" 

"Mary!" 

The sweet name, set among holy things for ever, fell softly 
on the silence like' a song. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAQED7 259 

She started, sprang up to her full height, gazed wildly, 
. . . wonderingly, . . . incredulously, . . . then, with a 
shriek of joy that seemed to echo to the very skies, she fell on 
her knees. 

"Master! Master!" she cried, and stretched forth her 
hands towards that Risen Saviour whose living Presence was 
the sign of rescue for the world. 

But now alight celestial environed Him, the earth trembled 
where He stood, and with a warning yet gentle gesture He 
motioned her away. 

" Touch Me not, for I am but newly risen /" 

And as He said these words a splendour flashed about Hia 
form like fire, He lifted 1 His eyes to the brightening heavens 
and all the radiant hues of morning seemed to float around Him 
and melt above Him in rings upon rings of ever-widening lustre, 
while the arrowy beams of the sun, shooting upwards through 
the clear ether, formed as it were upon the edge of the horizon 
a great Crown of the Universe for the glory of Him alone. 
Divinity invested Him with an unspeakable grandeur and 
majesty, and when His voice again sounded through space, it 
rang with the clarion note of supreme command and resistless 
power. 

" Go /" and extending His arms He appeared to indicate 
by one royal, all-comprehensive gesture His sovereignty over 
things visible and invisible " Go, tell My brethren that / 
ascend / Unto My Father and your father, unto My God 
and your God /" 

One thrilling instant more His creatures looked upon Him, 
the Magdalen in rapt and speechless ecstasy, Barabbas in 
stupefied, fascinated amazement mingled with a strange qualm 
of unbelief and misgiving, then, all at once there came a 
great blankness over the land, an emptiness and sense of 
desolation, the Kingly Conqueror of Death no longer lent the 
lustre of His beauty to the breaking day. He was gone ! 
He had vanished like a summer cloud absorbed in space ; and 
only a fragrant cluster of snow-white flowers marked the spot 
where He had stood. And presently,, across the deep stillness 
that followed His departure, there came the far off ringing of 
bells from the city, then the faint stir and hum of wakening 
life ; the mystic marvels of the night were ended, the first 
Easter morn spread fully forth its glorious golden blazon, and 
all aflame with wonder at the scene, the sun rose. 



2GO BARABBAS 



CHAPTER XLL 

LIKE the breaking of a charm woven by some wizard incan- 
tation, the spell which had held Barabbas dumb with awe and 
fear was suddenly dispersed. Recklessly springing forward 
without stopping to consider what he did, he confronted the 
Magdalen who still knelt where her Lord had left her, her en- 
ravished eyes upturned to heaven as though she saw some mys- 
tic vision of eternal joys. With hasty ruthlessness, born of a 
dark suspicion that rankled in his mind, Barabbas seized her by 
the hands. 

" Wherefore dost thou pray to emptiness ?" he cried loudly 
" The ' Nazarene' was here a moment since ! Whither hath 
he fled?" 

Mary started from her trance of worship, trembled, and 
looked at her fierce questioner in vague yet sweet bewilderment 
with the half-sad, half-happy smile of one who has been 
brusquely wakened out of an ecstatic dream. 

" Yea, truly He was here !" she answered in soft accents that 
thrilled with rapture " Yea truly, though my faltering soul 
could not at first believe it, He hath risen from the dead I 
From henceforth who shall fear the terrors of the grave 1 He 
hath risen ! Verily God hath manifested Himself unto us, 
and given comfort for the sorrow of the world !" 

She seemed yet entranced, her eyes were luminous, her face 
glowingly beautiful as that of some inspired angel. Barabbas 
grew more and more impatient. 

" Woman, thou art dazed or in a vision !" he exclaimed 
" Thy Master was ever a worker of miracles, and surely He 
hath worked them in the night that now is past ! Prate not 
thus of His rising from the dead, for of a truth methinks 
thou knowest that He hath never died !" 

Slowly Mary rose from her knees and putting back the fall- 
ing tresses of her long bright hair gzed at him amazedly. 

*" Never died !" she echoed " What meanest thou ? Art 
thou not Barabbas, and did'st thou not behold Him die? 
Did'st thou not woep with me for His long agony ? And hast 
thou not looked upon Him here alive again ? Art thou dis- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 261 

traught that thou believest not in God ? How earnest thou 
hither ?" 

Barabbas made no answer. His dark brows were knitted 
frowningly ; his limbs yet trembled from the agitation through 
which he had passed ; but there was a lowering doubt within 
him to which he was ashamed to give utterance. He moved 
to the opening of the vacant tomb and peered in mistrustfully, 
then after a second's hesitation, stooped down and entered. 
There was nothing to be seen save the empty stone niche where 
the " Nazarene" had slept, and the linen grave-clothes which 
had euswathed Him. These were rolled together and flung 
aside in one corner. Coming out of the dark recess, he stood 
silent and dissatisfied ; he longed to give voice to the suspicion 
that like a mocking devil assailed him and worked mischief in 
his mind, yet he remained abashed before the tender ecstasy, 
deep humility and adoring faith of the woman who in the 
sublimity of perfect love, seemed stronger than himself, made 
weak and wavering by doubt. Meanwhile, as he waited hesi- 
tatingly, watching the Magdalen, the broad beams of the sun 
pouring over the landscape appeared to cause a sudden move- 
ment among the hitherto inert forms of the soldiers of the 
watch, and presently one of the men sprang up erect with an 
amazed look as though he had fallen out of the clouds. 

Ye gods !" he cried loudly" What ! All asleep ? Gal- 
bus ! Maximus ! Dion 1 Animus ! What ! Broad day and 
not a man waking 1" 

The clamour he made, and his fashion of prodding his still 
only half-conscious comrades with the end of his lance began 
to take effect, but before he could thoroughly rouse them all, 
Barabbas caught the Magdalen by the arm, and dragging her 
with him round the bend of the rocks in which the sepulchre i 
was hewn, escaped from sight ere he could be discovered. 

" Lo, there !" he muttered breathlessly, when he stood safely 
on the highroad beside Mary, who in her dreamy bewilderment 
had scarcely comprehended the hurry and alarm of his action 
" If yonder Romans had seen me by the open tomb they would 
have sworn I had stolen the body of the ' Nazarene,' for I am 
branded already as a robber. And thou, even thou would'st 
not have gone without suspicion, frail woman as thou art, 
thou mightest have been deemed capable of treachery !" 

His sombre black eyes rested darkly upon her, but she 
was quite unconscious of any latent significance hidden in his 
words. Her countenance looked singularly fair and youthful, 



262 BARABBAS 

while it was irradiated by a holy joy that made its natural love- 
liness almost unearthly. 

" Wilt thou now go upon thine errand?" he continued, re- 
garding her stedfastly " Thy Master gave thee some command, 
wilt thou fulfil it ? Two of thy friends have sped before thee 
crying, ' He is risen /' now, do but add thy voice in all its 
sweet persuasiveness to theirs, and lo I perchance the world 
will take thy word for truth Divine !" 

She looked at him, first iu amazement, then in sorrow and 
compassion. 

" Thou poor Barabbas I" she said " Hast thou then looked 
upon the Master's face, and yet can'st not believe in Him? 
What aileth thee, thou blind and suffering soul ? In such a 
time of joy, why chainest thou thyself to misery ? Speak *11 
thy thought ! what hast thou in thy mind against me ?" 

" Naught against thee in very truth" answered Barabbas 
slowly and reluctantly, " save that I deem thee overwrought 
by such a frenzy of strange faith that thou would' st almost 
force a miracle ! Truly I saw thy Master ; and that He lived 
and walked and spoke I am prepared to swear, but I repeat 
to thee my words He is not dead, He never died 1 And 
thou, Mary of Magdala, knowest this 1" 

Nothing but wonder now filled her clear childlike eyes. 

"What meanest thou?" she asked anxiously "I cannot 
follow thee, surely thou wanderest in thy speech and 
reason" 

" Nay, not so !" he interrupted her harshly " I am no 
woman that I should be duped by feverous visions and the 
crazed distemper of a vain imagining ! Last night, here on 
these hills, I too kept secret vigil, and nothing of any import 
chanced, save a sudden rising of the wind with lightning and 
thunder. And towards the middle of the watch, a swooning 
came upon me, my senses reeled, and in the dazzlement of 
brain and sight, methought the lightning took strange shape 
and walked upon the land arrayed in wings. This blinded me, 
and I recall no more, for I lost hold on life till morning. 
Then, waking, I saw thee and thy companions coming from 
the city stealthily, and afterwards while I yet waited, the 
twain who were thy friends came running back possessed by 
some distraction, and, meeting me, they swore the Crucified 
had risen from the dead I I believed it not, and even now I 
still believe it not, though with mine own eyes I have looked 
upon Him living ! I say that He hath never died, upon the 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 263 

Cross He did but swoon ! Ay ! 'twas a seeming death ! 
and thou, Mary, did'st so melt the hearts of those who cruci- 
fied Him that when they took His body from the tree, they 
gave it into thy charge, and to His Mother, and for pure 
clemency, did forbear to break His limbs. Doubtless thou 
also did'st confer with the Arimathean counsellor, to the end 
that He should be laid within yon unused quiet cave, where 
in the darkness and cool silence He hath recovered, for was 
He not a master of the secrets of all healing? Nay, I am 
sure of nothing, as man I can but reason ! one must be 
even as a bat or mole not to see through this scheme wrought 
by the unwise love of women ! Go thy ways, Mary ! perjure 
thyself no more, 'tis no miracle to me that thus thy Master 
lives !" 

While he thus spoke in mingled resentment and scorn, she 
never moved. Listening patiently, her etedfast gaze fixed upon 
him, she looked the very incarnation of heavenly pity. Her 
lips trembled apart; she was about to speak, when another 
voice, clear and imperative, unexpectedly joined in the conver- 
sation 

" Go thy ways, Mary ! Fulfil thine errand and delay not ; 
for 'tis the erraud of all true women henceforth unto the end 
of this world's time. An errand of love and mercy l> be tHou 
the first one to perform it,. tell the ' brethren' even as thy 
Master bade thee that He hath risen ! that death is conquered 
by immortality, and that He ascends ! unto His Father, whom 
now through Him we know as Father of us all." 

And Melchior stood before them, his eyes flashing a mingled 
sorrow and satire. Barabbas stared at him afraid and ashamed ; 
how had he managed to arrive on the scene so silently, that 
his approach had not even been observed ? Meeting his cold 
ironic regard, Barabbas felt suddenly humiliated though he 
could not have told why ; Melchior meanwhile continued, 

" Well hast thou kept thy vigil, friend Barabbas ! as faith- 
fully and observantly in very truth as those admirable followers 
of the ' Nazarene,' who when He besought them to watch be- 
side Him for one hour, could not deprive themselves of sleep 
for all their boasted love and faithfulness ! Thou, erring and 
wilful sinner as thou art, hast been privileged to see the Divine 
and live, and yet thou dost deem a very God, imposture, 
measured by the ruling of thy finite reason ! Did I not tell 
thee thou wert man's true type ? and a perfect representative 
of thy unbelieving race ? Mary, 7 '" and he turned to the Mag- 



264 BARABBAS 

dalen with a gentle reverence " I pray thee linger here n<? 
longer, but haste to bear thy news to those who are bidden 
to receive it ; though verily 'tis certain that not one, not even 
the repentant Petrus will at first believe thy tidings. Men 
will work bravely to support their own lies, but scarce a soul 
shall be found on earth, willing to bear pure witness to God's 
Truth. But keep thou thy faith, Mary ! on woman's love 
and patience rests the world's future." 

She gave one fleeting startled glance at him of questioning 
surprise and fear, then instinctively obeying his authoritative 
gesture she hastened away, her grey garments and gold hair float- 
ing together like mingled sun and cloud as she sped citywards. 

"Thou dark distrustful soul!" then said Melchior to his 
moody companion, " How deservest thou any kindness of 
fate, seeing thou hast looked upon a God and known Him not? 
Heavy would be thy punishment wert thou alone in thy per- 
versity and sin, but take good comfort ! all thy race are with 
thee ! thou art, despite thyself the true " King of the Jews 1" 
Behold the watch where they come, all agape with wonder and 
dismay I well may they look thus wildly, for their news is of 
that strangeness that some among them will scarce have skill to 
utter it. Stand we aside a space while they pass by." 

He drew Barabbas apart, and they both observed with differ- 
ently mixed feelings, the disorderly and scrambling approach of 
the soldiers who were coming away from the sepulchre and 
hurrying towards the town. They all looked only half awake 
and dazed with bewilderment ; the centurion Galbus no longer 
headed the band, but walked, or rather stumbled along in the 
midst, supported by two of his men who held him up appa- 
rently despite himself. He was ghastly pale, his eyes had a 
fixed unseeing stare, he seemed like one stricken by paralysis 
and rendered suddenly old. Melchior glanced at him, and 
stepped forward 

" Greeting to Home !" he said, confronting the party 
" What ails your leader ?" 

The soldiers halted, and Maximus who was in command 
replied curtly 

" We answer no questions from strangers. Stand back 
and let us pass !" 

Quietly Melchior lifted his right hand, displaying a broad 
jewelled ring on the centre finger. 

" Be civil, good Roman !" he said " Respect the Emperor's 
signet." 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 265 

The astonished Maximus hastily saluted, there was no mis- 
take about the matter, the mysterious stranger did indeed 
possess the Imperial talisman ; and its authority was immedi- 
ately recognised. 

"I crave pardon, sir" murmured Maximus apologetically 
" But in this tributary province of Judaea each man of 
Rome must be upon his guard " 

u Ay 1 and keep good vigil too, as no doubt ye all have done 
throughout the night ;" interrupted Melchior " Nothing, of 
course, hath chanced of any import ? Ye have left the dead 
safely entombed ?" 

Silence followed. The soldiers looked down confusedly, 
Maximus shivered as though the warm morning sun chilled 
him, but the pallid-featured Galbus made no sign, and only 
stared on vaguely, straight ahead, like a blind man dreaming 
of light. 

" Sir " replied Maximus after a pause " Of the past night 
there is much to tell, but methinks it must be told first to 
those who have the ruling of the law among the Jews. 
Rome did not slay the ' Nazarene,' and for that death our gov- 
ernor hath publicly refused to be accountable. Neither can 
Rome be blamed for what hath now so strangely chanced for 
lo, the(seals of the Sanhedrim council are broken; the stone 
that closed the tomb is rolled away ; and the body 'of the cruci- . 
fied Prophet hath been taken from thence, but how these 
things were done I know not. I do confess we slept when we 
should have watched, but truly there were strange sorceries 
all about us ! A singing of birds was in the air ; so sweet 
that we were fain to listen and towards morning we beheld 
thr heavens on fire. that is, Galbus and myself beheld it, for 
these others slept :" Here he lowered his voice and spoke 
almost in a whisper " The burden of the telling of this tale 
devolves on me, for Galbus is deprived of speech, he can ex- 
press nothing of what he saw, the lightning that flashed 
across the land hath stricken him wholly dumb !" 

" So shall he bear no garrulous witness to the wonders of 
the night" said Melchior with a grave and kindly glance at 
the bent and drooping figure of the lately stalwart centurion, 
"Yet be consoled, good soldier. 'Tis but a temporary 
silence and will pass. Whither go ye now? To Pilate?" 

" Yea, to Pilate first and then to Caiaphas" answered 
Maximus "There shall I plainly speak of what 1 know. 
And if thou be the Emperor's friend, good sir, I do beseech 



266 BARABBAS 

thee to mistake us not, we have been ever honoured in the 
legion for prowess and vigilance till now, and truly I cannot 
tell how we were all entranced away from watchfulness. 
Nevertheless I will assert before the Tribunal, yea, and before 
the whole Sanhedrim, that no man's force, be he Jew or 
Roman, can stand against the powers of Heaven !" And he 
looked round at the dazed and helpless Galbus, marking him 
out by an impressive gesture as the living proof of the terrors 
of the past vigil. 

Melchior drew back. 

" Fear not, soldier ! Thou shalt not lose place in the legion, 
nor shalt thou lack protection from Caesar. On to the city ! 
present this dumb centurion to Caiaphas, and speak thou 
the truth as it is apparent unto thee, but doubt not that a lie 
will be quickly substituted for it 1 The lie will best suit the 
Jews, 'twill cost little trouble to keep up, being prone to 
propagate itself in endless forms, but the Truth will need 
fighting for and dying for through ages yet to come ! Fare- 
well 1 In whatsoever way I can, I will commend thee to the 
Emperor." 

Again Maximus saluted profoundly, and the men resumed 
their dusty hurried march. As they went, one said to his 
fellow, 

" Yonder stranger who doth wear our Emperor's signet is 
not particular in choice of comrades, for with him was 
Barabbas." 

" Barabbas !" echoed the other, " He that was released 
from punishment of death in place of the ' Nazarene 1 ?" 

" Even he I 'Tis said he was a robber." 

They trudged on through the thick white dust, and presently 
the whole company arrived at the gates of the city, where they 
were met by a rabble of the Jewish populace who hailed them 
with shouts of derision. The rumour had already gone 
abroad that the crucified Prophet of Nazareth had risen from 
the dead, and though none believed in the miracle, there were 
a few superstitious souls in the crowd who imparted to others 
their notion that He had not really died and moreover could 
not die. But the general impression was that the Body had 
been stolen from the tomb in spite of all precaution, that the 
soldiers had been plied with wine, and in all probability drugged 
into a lethargy, and that while they slept off the effects of 
over-much liquor, the disciples of the " Nazarene" had moved 
away the stone from the sepulchre and carried off their dead 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 267 

Master. la any case Roman vigilance had been baffled, and 
to the Jewish mob there was something peculiarly pleasing in 
this defeat. They yelled and hooted round the discomfited 
" watch," pointing out the tottering Galbus with jeers as 
" one that hath not yet recovered from his winebibbing 1" and 
formed a disorderly cortege up to the house of Pilate. There, 
when the great portal was unbarred to admit the soldiers, and 
these passed in, the malcontents remained for a little time out- 
side, shouting ironical applause for the valour of Rome, then, 
tired of their own clamour, gradually dispersed. 

Meanwhile, Barabbas once more in the shelter of the inn 
where Melchior lodged, turned to that strange personage and 
asked abruptly, 

" How earnest thou to wear the Emperor's signet ?" 

" That is my business, not thine, Barabbas !" responded Mel- 
chior tranquilly " Learn thou the first rule of civility, which 
is, to ask no questions on matters which do not concern thee. 
The Emperor is my friend, and for a service I have done him 
I hold Rome itself in fee." 

Barabbas opened his eyes wide in astonishment, and would 
certainly have pressed for further information had he not been 
interrupted at that moment by a soft knocking at the door, 
and the sound of a voice calling eagerly 

" Open ! Open quickly ! I have news for Barabbas. It is I, 
Mary of Magdala." 



CHAPTER XLIL 

IN answer to this summons they unlatched the door, and 
confronted the Magdalen on the threshold. She was breathless 
with running, and her eyes expressed a great and compassionate 
anxiety. 

" I promised thee, Barabbas," she began hurriedly, " I 
promised thee that if I heard aught of Judith Iscariot I would 
tell thee, lo now, I have found her ! She is in the wooded 
grove of Gethsemane, alone, strangely distraught and ill, 
dying perchance ! I pray thee tarry not, but come with me 
straightway, thou may'st persuade her from thence. I can- 
not. She weeps and sings, anon she clasps her hands, and 



268 BARABBAS 

prays, then she flies from me as one in fear, 'twill need much 
tenderness to move her, but thou as one familiar to her sight 
may haply entice her homeward prithee come I" 

" Yea, go quickly now, Barabbas," said Melchior gently 
" In the sorrow of a broken heart, love must needs pardon sin, 
and make an end of bitterness." 

He turned away, and Barabbas, needing no second bidding, 
hastened out of the house with the Magdalen, in a tremor of 
excitement and apprehension. The way to Gethsemane seemed 
interminably long, and yet they lost no time, not even in con- 
verse, for both were full of thoughts that baffled words. At 
last they reached the gate of the garden, and as she lifted the 
latch, Mary held up one hand warningly. 

" Listen !" she said. 

Faint fragments of song came floating towards them, broken 
scraps of melody, sweet and solemn and wild, and presently 
Barabbas recognised the sonorous rhythm of the stanzas of 



" Whither is thy beloved gone, thou fairest among women ? 
Whither is thy beloved turned aside ? 
Tell us, that we may seek him with thee. 

My beloved is gone down into his garden, 
To the beds of spices and to gather lilies; 
My beloved is mine and I am his ! 

Awake, north wind, and come thou south ! 
Blow upon my garden and on the spices thereof, 
Let my beloved come into his garden" 

Here the voice broke with a sharp discordant cry 

" Judas ! Judas ! Judas !" 

This name three times repeated, sent shuddering echoes of 
shrill despair through the solemn tranquillity of Gethsemane, 
and Barabbas trembled as he heard. 

" Where is she?" he demanded, in a hoarse whisper. 

Mary Magdalene made no reply, but took him by the hand 
and led him onward. 

They followed a winding path, so overgrown with moss that 
their footsteps made no sound upon it, and presently came in 
view of a grassy knoll tufted with palms, and furthermore 
adorned by the broken shell of a disused fountain. Here a 
white figure sat droopingly, all alone ; surrounded by a fantastic 
tangle of creepers and flowers that lay in straggling lengths 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 269 

npon the turf, apparently just gathered and thrown idly down 
to perish. Mary and Barabbas moved cautiously on, till they 
were within a few steps of that solitary woman shape, upon 
whose fiery- gold hair the sunlight shed a deeper flame. 

" Pause here a while" whispered Mary then " She hath a 
singular suddenness of violence in her, and if we come upon 
her unpreparedly, she will take instant flight. Best let me go 
before, and speak with her." 

But some instinctive sense of being watched, already moved 
the distraught girl. Springing to her feet, she shaded her eyes 
with one hand and looked straight down upon them. Then 
lifting up her voice once more in that wailing cry, " Judas !" 
she came rushing forward. With flying hair and feverishly 
glittering eyes she confronted them, and as her wild gaze fell 
on Barabbas, she uttered an exclamation of joy. 

" Judas !" and she ran to him, flinging her arms about him 
in delirious ecstasy " Judas, thou art here at last ! Why 
did'st thou not come sooner ? I have wandered all about the 
city seeking thee, yea! I have even killed Caiaphas for thy 
sake ! Did'st thou not know of this, and art thou not glad ? 
Of a truth he was a traitor ; but alas, I learned his treachery 
too late to serve thee in the saving of thy friend the ' Naza- 
rene.' And willingly do I confess my share of blame, not 
thou, poor Judas, wert in fault; 'twas all my doing, and Caia- 
phas persuaded me, therefore grieve thou no more for others' 
crimes. And now I have done all I could to make amends, 
thou wilt forgive me ? Is it not so ? Thou wilt forgive thy 
little sister ? Thou wilt love her still ?" 

While thus she moaned and murmured, with mingled sobs 
and smiles, pressing her soft face against his breast and lifting 
up her beautiful dark anguished eyes entreatingly, Barabbas 
felt as if his heart must break, tears rose in his throat and 
choked his power of speech, he pressed her convulsively in 
his arms but could say nothing, and she whose madness was 
capable of endless fluctuations, from tenderness to ferocity, 
grew irritated at his silence. Tearing herself away from him 
she stood apart, eyeing him at first with wonder, then with 
complete repugnance and scorn. 

" Thou art not Judas after all !" she said " How darest 
thou break in upon my solitude ? Knowest thou not that this 
is my garden of dreams ? I dwell here always, and I will 
have none but Judas with me. I saw him_jast night, he 
came to me and said that all was well with him, that he would 



270 BARABBAS 

meet me here, and for a moment I did fancy thou wert he. 
But no, thou art some insolent intruder ! get thee hence and 
trouble me not, I have many flowers to gather yet, wherewith 
to strew my grave. For I am dead, and this is the borderland 
of vision, Judas is dead also, and we both wander yet 
apart, but we shall meet, I know not when or how, but 
sure I am 'twill not be long !" 

She paused in her incoherent speech, and Mary Magdalene 
ventured to approach her. 

" Judith ! poor Judith !" she murmured gently and took 
her hand. Judith looked at her dubiously and somewhat 
resentfully, then smiled, a piteous wan smile. 

" Thou art very kind !" she sighed, " I do remember, 
thou wert here before, not long since, and did'st whisper words 
of comfort passing sweetly. Albeit I know thee not, still, 
thou art woman, thou can'st understand my grief. I cannot 
go from hence, for I have promised to abide here until Judas 
comes, therefore I pray thee do not vex me by entreaty. 
Moreover I must hide me for a while, for I have slain the 
high-priest Caiaphas, do they know it yet in the city ? and 
will they search for me ? I have sworn they shall not find me, 
Judas will come at sunset and bear me hence with him, 
'tis very lonely waiting, and if thou dost desire it thou can'st 
stay with me a while, but send away yon stranger." 

And she pointed to Barabbas, who drew back sorrowfully, 
stricken to the heart by an anguish he could scarcely conceal. 
But Judith did not comprehend his torture, apparently she 
had no memory or recognition of him, her errant fancy was 
already drifting elsewhere. 

" Take me away to the trees yonder" she said to Mary 
supplicatingly " And let us sit down and sing. Or thou shalt 
sing and I will sleep. I am tired, the way is endless ; one 
meets too many dreams. They rise one after the other, some 
beautiful, some dreadful, and Judas is in them all. And there 
is a red streak round his throat just where the cord pressed it, 
this cord" and she touched a frayed rope hanging at her 
waist " I cut the noose, nevertheless he still seems to suffer, 
though he should not, and methinks at times he looks upon me 
wrathfully. 'Tis cruel of him, he should remember the old 
days when we were children, one should never forget the love 
of home. And though age has crept upon me now, I once was 
young, and such beauty was mine as is seldom seen ! ' The 
fairest woman in Judxa? I was called, and this was true, 



A DREAM OF TEE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 271 

Judas should think of it, and not despise me now, because, 
through suffering, that fairness hath departed. Moreover of 
this ' Nazarene' he served, he hath not told me aught ; save that 
He was wise and good, and poor and all unrecognised, but 
this is the history of all wise good men, and is not strange. 
Some say He was a god, but there be many gods in Borne ! 
Justitia, Pilate's wife, thinks naught of gods. And I have 
even heard the daughter of Annas say that she did doubt and 
hate the great Jehovah, and this, when she was wife of 
Caiaphas, Jehovah's priest. Perchance she was unhappy, and 
had good cause to doubt her husband's faithfulness! who 
knows ! but of a very truth she loved not God ! Methinks 
'tis difficult to love a Power Unseen. Such thoughts weary 
me ; but this doth comfort me" and she drew from her bosom 
the same kind of roughly-made cross she had before possessed, 
formed of two twigs of olive, " Caiaphas did break one in his 
fury, and for that, as well as other things I slew him, this 
is another I have made, and 'tis a magic symbol ! for when I 
raise it so !" and she lifted it above her head in a sort of 
rapture " methinks I hear most wondrous music, and a sweet 
voice saying ' Peace !' " 

She nestled close to the Magdalen, who with pitying tears, 
placed one arm round her and strove to lead her away. But 
she quickly perceived that the direction taken was towards the 
exit from the garden, and she obstinately refused to move a 
step further on that path. 

" No, no !" she said " We will go deeper in among the 
trees. There is a place of palms yonder, and many flowers, 
and shade and fragrance. Come ! sing me to sleep be thou 
my friend, and stay with me till sunset, when Judas will be 
here." 

She began to gather up all her fallen garlands, and while she 
was thus occupied, the Magdalen whispered to Barabbas 

" Comfort thyself, friend, I will stay with her a little. 
Thou can'st follow and see the place where she will choose to 
rest then go thou quickly to her father and tell him she is 
here. Prepare him well to use with her both force and gentle- 
ness, be not thus sorrowful and amazed at her dislike of thee 
she knows thee not at all, a cloud is on her brain ; have 
patience !" 

" Hath she slain Caiaphas?" muttered Barabbas unsteadily 
u Or is the fancy born of her distraction ?" 

"I know not!" answered Mary "Thou must inquire and 



272 BARABBAS 

learn. I have heard nothing for to me the Master's rising 
from the dead hath sufficed as news for all the world 1 Of 
men's doings I know naught." 

As she spoke thus in hurried accents, Judith caught her 
impatiently by the arm and drew her away. 

"Bid yon stranger depart" she said "I like him not! 
He doth resemble one Barabbas ! He was my lover and I did 
betray him, he would slay me if he knew !" 

And she quickened her pace. The Magdalen accompanied 
her, and Barabbas followed slowly at a little distance, striving 
to conceal himself as much in the background as possible. At 
last, after various erratic ups and downs, Judith arrived at 
what she called "a place of palms." The feathery foliage 
towered high up against the deep blue sky, and smaller trees 
of thicker branch and leaf cast their green gloom on the 
smooth turf, while numberless climbing roses and passion- 
flowers had grown up arch-wise so as to form a complete bower 
of shade. Here the frenzied girl seemed to grow suddenly 
calm, she sighed profoundly, and her troubled countenance 
cleared. She sat down under the natural canopy of flowers 
with Mary beside her. A smile parted her lips, the old 
sweet witching smile that on that perfect mouth had been a 
resistless snare for the souls of men. 

" Sing 1" she said" Some simple song of tenderness that 
will banish all the spectres flitting round me ! I will not ask 
thee who thou art, thou hast a look of love within thine 
eyes and thou art beautiful. Yea ! thou hast long fair tresses 
full of sunshine, but see I" and she held up a mass of her 
own luxuriant hair which was like gold and fire commingled 
"This is a brighter colour methinks? and 'tis even as silk 
unto the touch. Lo, when I die thou shall sever it and make 
a rope thereof, twine it around the throat of Judas, and 
maybe it will heal his wound. Now sing !" 

She leaned her head against Mary's breast and half closed 
her eyes. Barabbas ventured nearer and stood in the shadow 
of the trees, listening while the voice of the Magdalen, honey- 
sweet yet shaken by tears sounded plaintively on the silence. 
And the song that she sang ran thus : 

The earth hath many flowers : in all the fields and bowers 
Their radiant blossoms open 'neath the glory of the sun, 
But their leaves are scarce unfurl'd to the summer of the world, 
When they perish in their beauty, every one. 
Brief is their fair delight; 'tis ended ere the night. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 273 

Sad emblems are they all of the sadder lives of men ! 
Better be a rose, the wildest one that blows, 
And ta/e in the shelter of the King's garden ! 

The lofty laurels stand, at a conqueror's right hand, 

To deck the feasts of triumph and the revellings of mirth, 

Lilies and bays are bound for the brows of heroes crowned, 

As symbols of the evanescent earth, 

But beauty, pride, and power, are the blossoms of an hour, 

Bringing sorrow more than safety to the weary souls of men ; 

Better be a rose, the wildest one that blows, 

And safe in the shelter of the King's garden ! 

The soft, quaint, almost solemn melody ceased, and Judith 
began to rock herself to and fro restlessly, wringing her hands 
as though she were in pain. 

" The King's garden !" sho wailed " Ay ! but where is 
the King ? He was crowned with thorns and He is dead, 
dead ! they have crucified Him ! I, Judith Iscariot, by sub- 
tilty, betrayed Him ! on me, on me, let the curse fall not 
on Judas, not on Judas, merciful God ! but on me ! On me 
let the thunders crash vengeance, let the fires of earth con- 
sume me, mine was the sin mine, I say ! Judas was inno- 
cent ! In the King's garden one should meet the King, but 
He is dead ; I would that He were living, for since He died I 
have been lost in darkness !" 

And she broke into a passion of wild weeping. Mary drew 
her compassionately into her arms and glancing backward made 
a slight sign to Barabbas. He understood, and turning away, 
hastened out of Gethsemane, his heart aching and his eyes full 
of scalding blinding tears, while the strange refrain of the 
Magdalen's song echoed itself over and over again in his 
ears 

Better be a rote, the wildest one that blows, 
And safe in the shelter of the King's garden ! 

Better, ay, far better ! Best of all things in life, death and 
eternity it is, to be the humblest creature ever born, and " safe," 
safe in the shelter of that mystic " garden" where Christ is 
King! 



274 BARABBAS 



CHAPTER XLIIL 

MAKING his way with all possible speed towards the house 
of Iscariot to bear the ill news of Judith's distraught condi- 
tion to her already broken-hearted father, Barabbas found the 
whole city in strange confusion. The streets were blocked by 
disorderly crowds of people wandering to and fro, many of 
whom were weeping and wailing hysterically, while others were 
wildly crying out that " the graves were opened" and that the 
world was coming to an end. Elbowing a difficult passage 
through the throng, Barabbas inquired the cause of the seem- 
ing tumult, and learned that the rumour of the " Nazarene's" 
miraculous resurrection had excited what some practical per- 
sons called " a fever of imagination" among the populace, and 
that numbers of men and women had been suddenly seized by 
frenzy and had run out of their houses in frantic terror, shriek- 
ing aloud that they had " seen the dead !" Long-perished 
friends, and loved ones who had slept entombed for years, now 
appeared again among the living, so these living swore ; spirit- 
hands touched them, spirit-voices called them, all the air was 
full of mystic sound. Possessed by superstitious fear, they 
could not be persuaded to return to their usual daily occupa- 
tions, and were only pacified by crowding together in the open 
thoroughfares, and leaguing themselves as it were, in a band of 
mutual support and protection against the overwhelming Super- 
natural that on that wondrous morning seemed to invest the 
land. Iscariot was not in the city, so Barabbas learned, his 
unhappy son Judas had been buried in haste and privacy early 
in the morning, and he himself, after the dreary obsequies were 
over, had taken horse and ridden out towards Bethany in re- 
newed search for his lost daughter. Nevertheless, in spite of 
this information, Barabbas pressed on in the vague hope of 
meeting him, till finally he could go no further, being com- 
pletely hemmed in by an excited mob that was pouring itself 
towards the house of Caiaphas. In the midst of the howling, 
hooting, unreasoning rabble were the Roman soldiers who had 
been set to guard the sacred sepulchre ; they had just under- 
gone examination by Pontius Pilate, and by him were now sent 
on to tell the story of their night's adventure to the high- 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 275 

priest. They could scarcely keep the order of their march, so 
roughly were they hustled by the irritated and impatient crowd, 
and they had much ado to refrain from responding wrathfully 
to the repeated jeers of impudent half-grown lads, and beggars 
of both sexes who helped to swell the riotous cortege, shouting 
insults all the way. 

" Lo, what drunken varlets are these men of Rome ! They 
could not guard even a dead Jew !" 

"Where is the Prophet of Nazareth?" 

" Who broke the seals of Sanhedrim ?" 

" What have ye done with the King of the Jews ? Give 
Him back to us and we will crucify Him a second time more 
surely !" 

Meanwhile as the noisy concourse came roaring and jostling 
onward, within the high-priest's palace itself there was a great 
hush and shadow. All the servants and officers of the house- 
hold knew that Caiaphas had been dangerously wounded on the 
previous night by some secret assassin, who had stabbed him 
and left him for dead. He had been found lying senseless and 
bleeding on the piece of grass immediately below his private 
balcony, and the attempted murder was, without any hesitation, 
judged to be the act of one of the disciples of the '' Nazarene" 
who had, in all likelihood, considered it a rightful means of 
avenging his dead Master. A surgeon had been hastily sum- 
moned, who gave it as his opinion that the injury inflicted 
would not necessarily prove fatal, but that to ensure recovery 
the patient must have the greatest care and the utmost quiet. 
Accordingly, the gates of the palace were closed against all 
comers ; the servants went about on tip-toe, Rachel, " the pale 
daughter of Annas" as Judith had been wont to call her, sat 
somewhat apart from the couch of her priestly spouse, occa- 
sionally ministering to his wants with that dutiful yet frigid 
exactitude which might distinguish a paid nurse rather than a 
wife, the curtains at the casement of the sick man's chamber 
were closely drawn to exclude the dazzling sunlight, and every 
possible precaution had been taken to ensure absolute tran- 
quillity. But all this care was of little avail, since Caiaphas 
himself was the despair of his physician. He groaned and 
swore, tossing and tumbling among his pillows in a restless 
fury at his own enforced inactivity, and he could scarcely re- 
spond to the soothing and bland inquiries of Annas, his col- 
league and father-in-law, with any show of patience or civility. 

" Truly thou dost chafe thy spirit needlessly, Caiaphas" 



278 BARABBAS 

observed that sleek personage sedately " Seeing that I am here 
to act for thee and carry out thy duties of the Temple minis- 
tration. Moreover thou art singularly unwise and obstinate in 
withholding from us all description of thy would-be murderer. 
He must be tracked and punished as thou knowest, this 
weapon that was found beside thee, and with which thou wert 
well-nigh slain, will aid us in discovery." 

Caiaphns flung aside his coverings and made an attempt to 
sit up. The attendant physician remonstrated, but he paid no 
heed. 

" What weapon dost thou speak of ?" he muttered hoarsely 
" Give it to me ! Let me look upon it 1" 

Annas, alarmed at the fierce expression of his face, at once 
gave it to him. He clutched it, then glared angrily round 
the room. 

" Leave me, all of ye !" he said " All, save my wife. I 
would speak with her alone." 

His irritability was such that they dared not provoke him 
further by contradiction, his command was therefore obeyed. 
He waited in silence till the door closed behind the retiring fig- 
ures of Annas, the physician, and two servants who had been 
in waiting, then he sank back on his pillows exhausted, still 
holding fast the jewelled dagger with which Judith Iscariot 
had in her frenzy so nearly made an end of his life. 

" Rachel, come to me !" he called faintly yet imperatively. 

His wife approached him. She was a slight dark pensive- 
looking woman with pale composed features and cold calm 
eyes. 

" Thou hast seen this toy before," he said, showing her the 
dagger, " Thou knowest it ?" 

She glanced at it indifferently. 

" Full well !" she answered " 'Tis Judith's jewelled play- 
thing a gift to her from the dead Gabrias 1" 

Caiaphas turned himself restlessly. 

" Ay I 'tis Judith's. The girl is frenzied for her brother's 
death, she came to me last night, she knew not what she 
said or did. 'Twas she who stabbed me, but none must know 
of it. Take thou the weapon therefore, and cast it in the well 
below the garden, thou wilt do this and say nothing, pas- 
sionless as thou art I feel that I can trust thee !" 

She took the dagger, and a curious smile flitted across her 
features. 

" Alas, poor Judith !" she said. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 277 

Caiaphas gave her a quick surprised look. 

" Thou dost pity her?" 

" With all my soul !" 

A feverish rush of blood crimsoned the high-priest's features. 

" I loved her !" he cried hoarsely, in a sudden reckless access 
**f pain and passion " Hearest thou, Rachel ! I loved her !" 

Rachel's cold eyes rested scornfully upon him. 

" I hear, Caiaphas ! And I know !" 

" Learn then yet another thing !" he continued wildly " For 
her sake I have been faithless unto thee !" 

" That also do I know 1" responded Rachel with chill equa- 
nimity. 

"And sayest thou nothing? carest thou nothing?" he 
demanded, amazed and exasperated. 

Over the face of the pale daughter of Annas came the warm 
flush of a righteous disdain. 

" I say nothing because I feel nothing, Caiaphas !" she re- 
plied " To know thee as I have known thee, ever since the 
day when my father Annas gave my life into thy cruel keeping, 
would make the softest woman's heart as hard as steel or ada- 
mant. I care nothing, for who could care for the loss or the 
retaining of a love so valueless as thine ! Speak we no more 
of this, for I have schooled myself to silence ; I am thy wife, 
only thy wife, who according to thy measure is little more 
than dog or slave ! And I will do thy bidding as dog and 
slave till death releases me, for out of mine own self-respect 
and pride I will not let thee boast that I have failed in aught. 
And of thy sensual passions I heed nothing, thou art free to 
follow them, seeing thou dost walk in the holy ways of Abra- 
ham, to whom most surely all women born were of less account 
than the cattle of the field ! yet he was the favourite of the 
self-same God thou servest, and so, perchance art thou ! But 
for me, henceforth, there shall be other gods than one who doth 
reward with favour the lies and infidelities of man !" 

Such passion vibrated in her voice, such wrath flashed within 
her eyes that for the moment her husband was stupefied with 
astonishment ; but as she turned to leave the room, he called 
her back angrily. 

" Rachel !" 

" "What now ?" 

" How darest thou" ... he panted huskily " How darest 
thou assault me with thy shrewish tongue thus furiously" 

She smiled coldly. 

24 



278 BARABBAS 

" I dare all things, being wronged !" she answered " And 
for Judith Iscariot I have naught but love ! love and grati- 
tude that she did seek to rid the world of thee I 'Twas bravely 
done ! I would she had succeeded !" 

And with haughty step and slow she passed out of the apart- 
ment, just as Annas, white and trembling with alarm entered 
it again, accompanied by the physician. 

" Caiaphas ! . . . Oaiaphas !" . . . he stammered. 

" Sir, be calm !" interposed the physician anxiously, hasten- 
ing to the bedside of his patient, " I sought to keep intruders 
from thee, but now this business seemeth strange and ur- 
gent" 

He broke off, and Caiaphas, still agitated by the unexpected 
conduct of his wife towards him, stared wonderingly from one 
to the other. 

" What ails ye both ?" he asked feebly " How ! dost thou 
tremble, Annas ? thou who art moved by nothing save a lack 
of delicate food? Speak, man ! What news is on thy lips?" 

" Pilate hath sent his men to thee" faltered Annas, " The 
watch hath been broken, the sepulchre is empty" 

With a frightful cry Caiaphas almost leaped from his 
bed. 

" Cowards ! Thieves ! Let them not dare to say the Man 
of Nazareth hath risen from the dead, for if His body be no 
longer in the tomb, it hath been stolen ! Where are these lag- 
gards ? these worthless Romans ? Pilate hath sent them ? 
then bid them enter I" 

Annas glanced at the physician who shrugged his shoulders 
and threw up his hands, implying by these gestures his resigna- 
tion of all responsibility in a matter so entirely beyond his 
control. 

"Bid them enter !" shouted Caiaphaa again, his face con- 
vulsed with impatience and fury. And in another moment, 
Maximus, with the speechless Galbus and the rest of his men ; 
keeping behind him, appeared. 

" Sir," said he, looking full at the high-priest, who glared at 
him in return with an expression of implacable and vengeful 
ferocity " Methinks I am come at an ill time, seeing thou art 
wounded and suffering ; nevertheless I am bound to fulfil the 
received command of the governor. Pilate hath sent me hither 
to tell thee that our watch hath been in vain, the Heavens 
have interposed, and a miracle hath been enacted ; the ' Naza- 
rene' hath risen !" 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 279 

" Liar !" and Caiaphas well-nigh foaming at the mouth, 
clutched at the purple coverings of his couch and leaned for- 
ward as though he were about to hurl some deadly weapon at 
the speaker " Liar ! Who art thou, dastard Roman, that 
darest presume upon my patience by the bringing of a false 
report ? Thou wert not placed in charge ! Galbus did head 
thy band of scoundrels, let him speak !" 

Maximus, pale with rage at the insult thus offered to him- 
self and his comrades had much ado to control his rising 
temper. 

"Sir priest," he said, breathless with suppressed anger 
" Thou goest too far in the manner of thy speech, seeing 
Judaea is the slave of Rome, and thou thyself a payer of 
tribute unto Caesar. I have not brought thee any false report, 
I scorn to lie, and I am here to tell the truth of what I 
saw. That these men about me slept I deny not, but I was 
wakeful, and with mine own eyes I did behold, at the first 
quarter after midnight, the heavens opened and two god-like 
Shapes descending towards the tomb. Galbus looked on the 
marvellous sight with me, and with the lightning of the 
glory we were smitten to the ground even as dead men. At 
morning when we woke we found the great stone rolled away 
from the sepulchre, and the tomb itself empty of all save the 
linen cerements wherein the body of the ' Nazarene' was swathed. 
And as for Galbus, I would that any bidding of thine or mine 
could make him speak, for since the fearful fires did fall upon 
us both at midnight, he hath been smitten feeble as thou seest 
him now, and dumb." 

While Maximus thus spoke the countenance of Caiaphas 
had grown livid and hideous with the restrained passion and 
bitter malice of his soul. 

" Would I had had my way !" he muttered thickly between 
the slow gasps of his labouring breath " I would have hewn 
the body of the crucified blasphemer asunder limb from limb, 
and flung each portion to the dogs that roam the city !" He 
paused, choking back the terrible oath that rose to his lips, and 
then went on slowly, addressing himself again to Maximus 
" So ! this is the story of the thieves' trick played upon ye 
by the Galilean rogues who, like their Mastei, practise devils' 
magic ! Think not I am deceived ; no dead man rises from 
the grave, and I will sift this matter! Galbus hath lost the 
power of speech thou sayest, nevertheless he is not deaf 
methinks, he is capable of signs. Let him stand forth and 



280 BARABBAS 

face me ! I will question him, and by the God of Israel fce 
shall answer me if only in dumb show 1" 

His irate order was obeyed, the two soldiers who supported 
the tottering, half-paralysed Galbus, led him forward. Caia- 
phas, leaning out of bed, grasped him by the arm roughly. 

" Galbus 1" 

Slowly the wandering lack-lustre eyes of the centurion lifted 
themselves and rested vaguely on the high-priest's pale and 
resentful visage. At first there was no expression whatever in 
their fixed regard but gradually the light of returning intelli- 
gence and memory brightened and dilated them, and a sudden 
change began to manifest itself in the whole demeanour of the 
stricken man. Drawing a deep breath he straightened his 
drooping figure, and shook himself free of his two supporters 
who stared upon him in amazement, with one hand he felt 
for his sword, and as he touched the familiar hilt, he smiled, 
and raised his head with his former proud and martial bearing. 
Caiaphas watched him in astonishment and suspicion the 
man's former crushed and helpless demeanour seemed now an 
elaborate pretence, his very dumbness might be assumed ! 
and believing this to be the case, a black frown wrinkled the 
high-priest's brows as he fiercely demanded 

" How now, Galbus 1 What report hast thou to offer of thy 
duty ? what knowest thou of last night's vigil ? If thou art 
dumb, make signs ; if thou hast any utterance, speak ! Who 
made thy watch of no avail, and turned thy Roman valour 
into trembling?" 

With sudden and startling vehemence the unexpected answer 
came: 

'{Jesus of Nazareth, Son of the living Godj) 

It was Galbus who spoke, the spell of silence was all at 
once lifted from him, and his voice, resonant, clear and con- 
vincing, rang like a trumpet-note through the room. Wonder 
and dismay fell upon all who heard him, but he, expanding 
and glorying~as it were in the utterance of a truth, exclaimed 
again loudly and fearlessly 

" Jesus of Nazareth, Son of the living God !" 

Maddened with rage, Caiaphas made a frantic attempt to 
strike him on the mouth, but was prevented by the politic 
Annas. 

"Away with him, away with him !" he cried furiously, im- 
potently beating the air with his clenched fists " Bind him, 
gag him I slay him 1 X will be answerable for his death to 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 281 

Caesar ! Gag him, I say ! silence him in earnest ! he is a 
liar, a liar ! he shall be branded as such to his nation ! bear 
him hence quickly, let him not shout his blasphemies through 
the town ! Gag him ! ye villains, ye will not obey me 1 ye 
will let the people think the crucified malefactor a god divine, 
curse him, I say ! curse ye all for a band of liars, ye foul 
brutes, ye cowards of Home, ye base pauderers to the scum 
of Galilee" 

His voice broke in a sharp cry, his wound began to bleed 
afresh and the crimson stain welled rapidly through the linen 
wrappings ; the physician seriously alarmed, declared to Annas 
that he could not be answerable for his patient's life if this 
scene were allowed to continue. Annas therefore took it upon 
himself to put an end to the inquiry. 

" Get ye all hence !" he said, addressing himself to Maxlmus 
angrily " And take this raving Galbus out of hearing I His 
dumbness was better than his speech. But think not we shall 
let this matter rest thus, what reasoning man would of sane 
will accept a fool's report such as thou bringest I We are not 
to be dupad either by Galileans or Romans !" 

Maxituus gave him no reply save a look of supreme scorn, 
Galbus meanwhile had been coldly watching the pallid and 
convulsed face of Caiaphas. 

" Lo, how the devils in this Jewish priest do torture him !" 
he said meditatively " Hell itself cries out upon Christ's mur- 
derer!" 

" Silence, thou knave !" cried Annas. 

" Silence thyself, thou Jew !" retorted Galbus, " thou can'st 
not so command a soldier of Tiberius." 

Annas grew livid with rage. The physician who was en- 
gaged in stanching the blood that flowed from Caiaphas's 
wound, again interposed, entreating that the room might be 
cleared and his patient left tranquil. Annas therefore, with 
difficulty restraining the torrent of invective that rose to his 
lips, assumed an air of dignified rebuke. 

" Centurion, 'tis beneath me and my sacred calling to argue 
with the base and the unworthy. Hence ! with thy men, 
through Pilate we shall yet communicate with thee, and report 
thy conduct to the Emperor. Doubt not that justice will be 
done ! both unto thee and unto us, and whosoever broke the 
seals of the Sanhedrim aflixed upon the tomb ye all were 
set to guard, shall be tracked and punished with the extremest 
penalty of the law." 



282 BARABBAS 

Galbus smiled grimly. 

" Track ye the angels then, and find the path to Heaven T 
he said " To false priests the task will not be easy !" 

And turning abruptly on his heel he placed himself at the 
head of his company as if he had never left command of it. 
In the momentary pause before the little troop departed, one 
soldier hung back and made a secret sign to Annas. 

" What would'st thou ?" said Annas impatiently " Seest 
thou not the high-priest almost swoons? he can stand no 
more of this rude clamour." 

" I would but say one thing to him" said the man, who 
was a dark browed, evil-looking fellow from Sicily " Haply it 
might give him a clue." 

Annas looked at him scrutinisingly, then quickly approached 
Caiaphas who had sunk back on his pillows in a sort of lethargy. 

" This soldier hath a private word for thee, my sou," he 
said. 

Caiaphas opened his languid bloodshot eyes. 

" Vex me 110 more ;" he muttered feebly " I suffer I let 
me rest !" 

"Sir" said the soldier quickly "'tis but a hint to thee 
which may serve to some good purpose. 'Tis true we slept 
upon our watch last night, lulled into slumber by a wondrous 
singing as of nightingales, and of ourselves we saw no marvels, 
despite what Maximus hath told thee. But on this morning as 
we came away from the sepulchre, a stranger met us on the 
road who did inquire most particularly as to the nature of our 
vigil. He had a foreign aspect, and to our wonder, wore the 
Emperor's signet. And with him was Barabbas." 

Caiaphas started, and heedless of his wound, sat up. 

" Barabbas ?" 

" Yea, sir. Barabbas. He that was a robber." 

A sudden gleam of malicious joy sparkled in the high- 
priest's eyes. 

" Soldier, I thank thee ! Thou hast done well in telling me 
of this. Come back hither later on, and thou shalt have gold 
from the treasury as thy reward. And mark me, friend ! to 
all thy comrades who did sleep, seeing no miracle, but only 
seeing Barabbas on the road next morning, gold shall be meted 
out full lavishly, provided they will tell this thing throughout 
the town. Barabbas did defend the ' Nazarene,' and therefore 
may be ranked among His followers and disciples. Thou sayest 
truly, Barabbas was a robber /" 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 283 

And when the soldier had rejoined his companions, and the 
sound of the retreating; footsteps of all the men had died away 
in the outer corridor, Caiaphas lay back again upon his couch 
with a sigh of deep relief and contentment. Smiling an evil 
smile, he murmured to himself softly 

" Barabbas ? Barabbas was a robber" 

And in an hour's time, despite his recent rage and excite- 
ment, he slept tranquilly, while on his thin closely-compressed 
lips, even in deep slumber, still lingered the shadow of that 
wicked smile. 



CHAPTER XLIV. 

EMERGING at last with difficulty from the turbulent throng 
that had accompanied the Roman soldiers to the high -priest's 
palace and that now waited in a dense mass outside the gates 
for their return, Barabbas managed finally to reach Iscariot'a 
dwelling. The house was shut up and in mourning ; and none 
of the servants could truly tell where their master had gone 
after his son's melancholy funeral. Uncertain what to do, and 
shrinking from the idea of coufiding to paid menials the news 
that their mistress was wandering about distraught, with no 
other companion or friend than the evilly-reputed Magdalen, 
Barabbas could see no other course open to him than to return 
at once to Gethsemane and consult with Mary as to what next 

father. He therefore made the best of his way back to the 
garden by certain by-streets where the crowd had not pene- 
trated, and as he came out upon the open road leading to the 
Mount of Olives, within sight of the trees of Gethsemane, he 
perceived a group of persons standing together in earnest con- 
versation. Drawing nearer he recognised one of them as Simon 
Peter; the others he did not know, but judged from their ap- 
pearance and dress that they were Galileans, and followers of 
Him that was called the " Nazarene." He would have passed 
them by, in his haste to reach his destination, but that Peter 
Baw him and called to him. He approached reluctantly. 

" This is Barabbas!" said Peter slowly " He who was re- 
leased unto the Jews instead of the Lord. He hath repented 
of his crimes ; shall we not persuade him to go with us ?" 



284 BARABBAS 

The others looked upon him curiously, one, a fair tall man 
with a noble head and brilliant yet dreamy eyes, addressed him 
gently 

" Friend, thou art welcome ! Knowest thou that He whom 
the wicked crucified, hath risen gloriously from the dead ? 
Wherefore, we, His disciples, grieve no more, seeing that now 
we have such hope as f'aileth not I We are journeying from 
hence to Bethany and on towards Galilee, even as He, our 
Master bids us, He hath promised to meet us on the way." 

Barabbas gazed steadily at the speaker. 

" Believest thou, with all thy soul, that He hath risen from 
the dead?" 

" Yea, truly !" 

" Prithee, who art thou ?" 

" My name is John." 

A pause ensued. Barabbas stood silent, his brows knitted, 
his eyes burning sombrely like clouded fire beneath their thick 
black lashes. 

"Wilt thou go with us?" demanded Peter, " Pe'rchance 
thou also, on the way, wilt meet and see the risen Lord !" 

" Nay, I have seen Him 1" answered Barabbas, and as he 
said the words, the listening disciples started and exchanged 
amazed glances one with the other " And from your words I 
gather that ye have not ! Truly He lives ! that I will swear ! 
Ye have received this news from Mary Magdalene, and ye are 
ready to accept the woman's version as a miracle, but I, I 
was near her when He did converse with her, I watched His 
face, I heard His voice, I saw Him glide, or melt away 1 
Whither He went I know not, for though I searched the tomb 
He was not there." 

" We also searched the tomb" began Peter. 

" What 1 Then ye doubted of His rising from the dead ? 
even ye ?" And Barabbas smiled darkly. " Will ye know 
Him, think ye, if ye meet Him by the way ?" 

" Know Him ?" cried Peter " Ay ! among a thousand 
thousand !" 

Barabbas looked straight at him, with a melancholy scorn in 
his black eyes. 

" Take heed, Peter ! Swear nothing. Thou did'st deny Him 
thrice !" 

He waited a moment; then went on in slow deliberate 
accents. 

" Righteous sirs, I am beholden to ye all for the offer of 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 285 

your comradeship ; nevertheless I may not join your company. 
Methinks my destiny is ordered elsewhere. I am a man of 
many sins, and cankered o'er with doubts and fears that would 
not well consort with your fidelity. Nevertheless I deem the 
Truth can never hurt a man, being most surely part of God if 
God there be, therefore the truth of my refusal ye shall have 
from me. Lo then, when your Master was betrayed, ye did 
most pitilessly all forsake Him, and for that one abhorrent deed, 
my soul rebels against ye ! Sooner would I companion Judas 
in his self-sought grave than follow in your track ! I could not 
break my bread in peace with one deserter of the sinless ' Naza- 
rene' !" 

He paused, agitated by strange passion, and they were all 
silent, amazed and inwardly stung at the pitiless veracity and 
daring of his speech. 

" I am Barabbas," he continued, " And my name may serve, 
an' ye choose it, for all that is worst in man. I have been both 
thief and murderer, I am a vagabond of no value in the 
world, and I speak without learning, but I strive not to hide 
my crimes, I make no pretence of being what I am not. Yo 
perchance are righteous, arid think ye may exalt mankind, I 
am a sinner, and know that men can seldom be exalted. I 
make no secret of my disbelief, and I say unto you all plainly, 
that to my thought the Man of Nazareth hath never died, in- 
asmuch as since that so-called death I have myself this very 
morn, beheld Him living. Wonderful in truth was His aspect, 
I do confess it ! marvellous beauty and great light attended 
Him, but even thus He always looked, ay, even in the Hall 
of Pilate when first I saw His face. That He swooned upon 
the Cross is possible, that He recovered in the tomb is also 
possible ; yea, I would even credit that with the force pent up 
in His most noble and heroic frame, He could Himself roll 
back the sealed stone from the sepulchre; but of 'miracles' 
and things impossible I needs must doubt till they are proved. 
And if ye would confess it, ye have your doubts also even as 
mine. Nevertheless had I served the ' Nazarene' and dwelt 
with him as ye have done, as Man and Friend and Teacher 
merely, I never would have left Him to His enemies, or denied 
Him, as this Peter, whom despite his late repentance, I 
despise !" 

He spoke with force and eloquence, and Peter shuddered 
and paled at his rebuke. 

"Thou strange ruffian !" he said tremulously " Can'st 



286 BARABBAS 

thou not understand the terrors and the hesitations of a 
man" 

" I can understand all things," interrupted Barabbas fiercely, 
" save cowardice ! Lo, if this Master whom ye boast of is a 
god and hath risen truly from the dead, let Him but come 
and speak to me to me, the wretched, sinful, doubting, fear- 
ing Barabbas, let me know Him as He is, and what matter 
even if I die of the terror and the splendour of His presence I 
Doubt would shake my soul no more, I would endure eter- 
nities of pain to prove His godhead ! Ye have known Him, 
so ye say, and yet ye doubted and deserted Him ! lo, ye 
yourselves have made it seem that ye mistrusted Him, for if 
ye did believe that He were God, why did ye all forsake 
Him?" 

Great tears gathered in the eyes of the disciple called John. 

" Prithee, say no more, Barabbas !" he murmured " We 
know our faults ; we are but men." 

" True !" said Barabbas mournfully " We are but men ! 
We should be gods to serve a God ; and some there be who 
swear we can become as gods, knowing both good and evil if 
so we will it. But methinks we only choose to master half 
the lesson JEvil ; of Good there is little knowledge and less 
liking. I pray ye all to pardon me the roughness of my speech, 
I am a sad, embittered, broken-hearted man, and all life looks 
upon me frowningly. And though I may not go with ye 
I say ' god-speed !' and if ye meet your Lord, may your eyes 
have love enough to know Him when ye see Him ! So 
farewell I" 

" Stay !" cried Peter " All thy reproaches shall not go un- 
answered. Thou knowest on whom should fall the rightful 
blame, though these my companions here are yet in ignorance. 
I told thee all, thou and the stranger whom thou had'st with 
thee, wherefore carry thy rebuke where most it is deserved, 
to that arch-traitress whom thy soul doth cherish with a secret 
passion, uncontrolled, despite her infamy. Ah, who will ever 
truly tell the story of the Lord's betrayal ! None ! for a 
woman-wanton is the dearest joy of man, and the very laws he 
makes protect her foulness and defend his lust !" 

" Coward art thou still, Peter 1" retorted Barabbas hotly 
" Would'st thou shelter thine own weakness behind that^of 
woman ? 'tis an unmanly deed ! Does it make tliy sin or the 
sin of Judas less that ye were so ea sily tempted by woman's 
voice and persuaded by woman's eyes ? Nay ! it doth prove 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 287 

your fickleness the more, go to ! bear thy part in crime with- 
out mean subterfuge j 'tis nobler to confess a sin than cover 
it" Here he broke off abruptly, startled by a sudden move- 
ment among the disciples who were all with one accord looking 
amazedly down the road in the direction of Gethsemane. He 
followed their wondering glances, and saw to his utter con- 
sternation the white-robed form of a woman flying forth like a 
phantom from under the sheltering shadows of the olive-trees. 
The fiery gold of her streaming hair flashing in the sun iden- 
tified her at once to his grieved sight, it was the frenzied 
Judith, and behind her ran the Magdalen, making signals of 
anxiety and distress. Swaying to and 1'ro, sometimes stumbling, 
anon rushing impetuously as though borne by a swift wind, 
the distracted girl fled along like some furiously hunted animal, 
till her course was interrupted by the presence of the disciples, 
and Barabbas, with whom she came suddenly face to face. 
He, going close up to her, tried to take her gently by the 
hands, but she flung him off with a violent gesture and stood 
still, panting for breath and trembling. The very fury of 
mania possessed her ; her face was livid and convulsed, her lips 
were blue and drawn in against her teeth in a thin unnatural 
line, and in startling contrast to the pallor of her features, her 
great dark eyes blazed with a feverish thirsty glare as of some 
inward longing unappeased. 

" Where is the King ?" she cried shrilly, fixing a wild look 
on Peter " I have been in His garden all among the flowers 
and the palms, but He is not there 1 He has come out of 
the grave, they say, devils and angels alike whisper it, never- 
theless though I seek Him I cannot find Him. But surely 
He must be found, I have need of Him speedily, for I must 
ask Him to pardon Judas, Judas frowns at me and will not 
be consoled 1" 

i Here, interrupting herself, she flung her long hair backward 
over her shoulders, and smiling faintly, looked from one to 
the other of the disciples in a sort of vague anticipation and 
inquiry. Peter's stern eyes rested upon her austerely and 
without compassion, she shrank a little away from him, and 
again her glances wandered wildly, till a sudden magnetism 
appeared to attract them fixedly to the calm fair face of John. 
With a sharp cry she threw herself on her knees before him, 
lifting her clasped hands and still smiling piteously. 

" Good sir, be gentle with me ! I am full of sin, and I 
have never been merciful to any man, yet for my brother's 



288 B ARABS AS 

sake I must find the King ! I know He cannot have gone so 
very far away, for last night I beheld Him in a vision. He 
slept, all white and cold, upon a bed of stone ; the blood-stained 
thorns were in His golden hair, the grave-clothes were His 
robes of state, but even as He lay thus, a great world came 
to pay Him homage. A strange world a vast world the 
world of the Dead 1 they gathered round His couch and 
smiled upon Him, their shadowy forms grew warm and 
colourful with life, and as they came they chanted all together 
Thus is Death slain that we may livej/ And, hearken, sir, 
hearken ! Judas was there, Judas, with gentle eyes and 
smiling lips, but ah ! he never looked on me ! he never 
smiled at me ! but I was glad, because the cruel mark had 
gone from round his throat, and he seemed happy, though I, 
his sister, stood apart, alone ! And presently the white King 
rose ! 'twas marvellous ! His thorny crown was changed to 
stars ! His grave-clothes glittered into light and fire ! and 
like the morning Sun itself He shone upon the world.] And 
all the buried men and women lived again, ^yea, all the earth 
was full of life and joy, but there was one strange terror in 
the glory, for I heard a voice proclaim with thunder ' From 
henceforth every soul created is immortal ; Life rules the 
universe for ever, and only thou, Judith Iscariot, art dead !' " 

She gave vent to a shuddering moan, and writhing herself to 
and fro, clung to the mantle of John as though for protection. 
He did not repulse or try to raise her, but stood silently, gazing 
down upon her crouching figure in solemn compassion. Mary 
Magdalene had also approached, and now bent above the un- 
fortunate girl with whispered words of more than a sister's 
tenderness, but Judith seemed unconscious of her presence, 
and still lifted her appealing face to John. 

" Think of it, gentle sir !" she murmured sobbingly " Is it 
not hard, very hard, that I, only I, out of all Creation, should 
thus be dead ? In all the joy and moving of the world, that 
my heart should be frozen thus and still ? that I should feel 
no love, no hope, no memory ? Yet it is true ! I know the 
curse has fallen upon me, for I am stricken dull and foolish, 
I am even as a stone upon the road for every foot to spurn at. 
Beauty I had, but 'twas of no avail to me ; love I had, but 
love was powerless to defend me ; and lo, while all the universe 
rejoices in its life eternal, I, Judith, must remain the one dead 
soul accursed, unless unless, so the whisperers in the air tell 
me, I may haply find the King. For though He looked in 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 289 

anger on me once, 'tis said He hath great tenderness, and 
patience more than all men, He will perchance forgive. He 
is not in His garden, I have sought Him everywhere, and 
Judas has not come. Help me, friend, I do beseech thee 1 
take me to the presence of the King, for Judas is angered 
with me, Judas must be consoled !" 



CHAPTER XLV. 

SHE knelt, her wide-open wild eyes upturned ; and as she 
finished her incoherent appeal, she lifted the roughly twisted 
cross she had made, and held it close up before the wondering 
gaze of the " beloved" disciple. 

" Will this not move thee?" she asked, plaintively. 

John started as from a dream. 

" Is not this the sister of dead Judas ?" he said softly and 
in amazement " What doeth she with such a symbol?" 

"Alas, who knows ! and who can follow the wanderings of 
her distempered fancy !" answered Barabbas struggling with 
the tears that rose in his throat " Her brother's death hath 
maddened her thus. Prithee have patience ! I would we 
could persuade her to her father's house !" And he looked 
distressfully at the Magdalen who shook her head sorrow- 
fully. 

" I fear me 'twill be difficult," she said "She hath the 
strangest fits of passion. She was quite happy in the garden 
till a little while agone, then suddenly convulsed, she rose and 
shrieked aloud, and wringing her hands fled swiftly from me. 
I followed fast, and she ran forth into the highroad thus 
demented, nor would she let me touch her." 

They spoke in low tones, and Judith heeded nothing that 
was said. She remained on her knees, looking at John. 

" Where is the King ?" she reiterated. 

Before John could reply, Peter suddenly advanced. 

"If thou dost speak of Him whom thou did'st aid the 
priests to crucify" he said sternly "Thou dost ask news 
of Him in vain. He doth not answer to the call of the wicked, 
and for the treacherous He hath no sympathy. Shall a mur- 
derer ask for his victim ? shall he that hath wilfully wrested 
x t 25 



290 BARABBAS 

life from the innocent expect that life to live again? Cry t 
Judith, to the heavens, for the King of Heaven is there, 
but such as thou art wilt find him on this earth no 
more !" 

"How can'st thou tell, Peter?" interposed John quickly 
" Thou art too harsh, thou should'st not too presumptuously 
declare the ways of the Divine. Hast thou no pity ? Our 
Master had, when we were with Him, and of a truth methinks 
He would have comforted this broken and afflicted soul 1" 

u Thy Master had strange servants !" said Barabbas hotly 
" And this Peter doth commiserate his own sins only!" 

" Hush, oh hush !" prayed the Magdalen fervently 
" Dispute not now among yourselves ! see ye not a change 
in her ? Judith ! Judith !" 

Judith had risen slowly to her feet, and was now standing 
upright, though feebly, the hot sunshine fell full on the 
uncovered splendour of her hair and made it appear to burn 
like flame, but her face was wan and sad as the face of the 
dying. She had turned her eyes upon Peter, though with an 
almost unseeing look. 

" Thou hast a harsh note in thy voice" she said faintly 
"Methinks thou did'st never love a woman, not even the 
mother that bore thee. Who art thou ? I know thee not, 
but sure am I thou wilt do cruel things in the world. With 
love, one is cruel, but without it, ah ! what is it to be 
without love ? I cannot tell, for I have lost what love I had, 
and I am dead. Alas, alas ! It seems that none of ye know 
where the King hath now His dwelling,-^-! must go seek Him 
further. 'Tis useless to waste time in cursing me, 'twere 
kinder to bestow on me some hope." 

Here she staggered slightly, and seemed about to fall, 
Mary Magdalene caught her round the waist. " I am not 
well" she went on " There is such a strange weight at my 
heart, and an aching heat upon my brows. Thou" and 
turning, she put her arms about Mary's neck and looked her 
full in the eyes " thou art my friend, we were in the 
King's garden together were we not? two sinful, sorrowful 
weak women, but we did not find Him there. Had He seen 
us He would have pitied us. And Judas did not come. He 
promised, but he did not come." 

"Did'st thou not say that he would come at sunset?" 
murmured Mary soothingly " 'Tis not yet sunset." 

" Not yet sunset !" and Judith sighed, opening her beautiful 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 291 

pained eyes in mournful languor and bewilderment "Surely it 
should be near, for the skies are growing very dark, it will 
soon be difficult to see one's way" 

She broke off, gasping for breath ; the disciples exchanged 
grave and alarmed glances, while Barabbas seized by a spasm 
of fear sprang forward. 

" Judith, speak to me !" he cried. 

She looked at him, smiling a little, but still clinging to 
Mary. 

" Who is this?" she asked " He calls me by my name, 
Aen surely he should know me." 

"Judith, Judith ! I am Barabbas!" And he stretched out 
his arms towards her in a passion of despair and yearning 
agony. 

Feebly she extended one hand to him. 

" Art thou indeed Barabbas ?" she said, with an echo of 
the old sweetness in her failing voice " Alas, Barabbas ! 
Believe me, I am sorry for thee. Thou did'st love me !" 

He grasped the little hand convulsively and turned away to 
hide the scalding tears that fell. A great compassion for him 
was expressed in tho earnest faces of the disciples, even 
Peter's rugged features softened, and a troubled shame and 
remorse for his recent harshness appeared to vex his shifting 
and uneasy spirit. 

Just then a terrible paroxysm of trembling seized Judith's 
limbs, Mary Magdalene could scarcely support her, and 
appealed to the others, with a frightened glance, for aid. 
Barabbas and three of the disciples went to her assistance, 
but the insane Judith was possessed of unnatural strength, 
and twisted and writhed about with so much fury that it 
seemed as though her whole frame were being torn and 
tortured by devils, and they were afraid to seize her by force 
lest this action should increase her frenzy. 

" Lay her down under the trees by the roadside" said Peter, 
in gentler tones than he had yet used " 'Tis a feverish con- 
vulsion, and in the shade and cool, it will pass quickly." 

But it was impossible to move her a step. She stood, 
clutching Mary, obstinately forcing herself to remain upright, 
and fighting against the physical anguish that was gradually 
overcoming her, her eyes were fixed and stared straight 
upward to the cloudless sky. All at once the horrible tremors 
ceased, her face flushed suddenly into the radiance of its 
former dazzling beauty, and with a violent movement, she 



292 BARABBAS 

thrust the Magdalen aside. Like some great queen she lifted 
her head with an imperial gesture, and her eyes flashed lire. 

"What news bring ye from the city?" she demanded 
"Do they mourn there or rejoice for the death of Caiaphas?" 

" Alas, Judith, dream not so wildly 1" murmured Barabbas 
quickly " Caiaphas is not dead, some enemy hath wounded 
him in the night, but he doth live, and will live on, trouble 
not thyself!" 

As he spoke she looked at him strangely, and over her 
features came a swift dusky pallor as of death. 

" What! Caiaphas doth live and will live on?" she cried 
" He is not dead? Then upon him, God of Israel, send 
down thine everlasting curse ! let loose on him the fiends of 
darkest hell ! Betrayer, seducer, liar and self-seeking hypo- 
crite, remember, just God, remember the sins of this thy 
so-called righteous servant in the Holy Place, and let thy judg- 
ments meet the measure of his vileness ! Not upon Judas" 
and she raised her arms aloft in passionate appeal " not 
upon Judas, nor on any blind and ignorant sinner visit tny 
vengeance, dread Lord, but on thy Priest who in pretence 
of serving the Divine hath murdered it ! A curse on Caiaphas ! 
the curse of dead Judas, the curse of dying Judith ' the 
never-lifting curse of the v retched who are led by a priest's 
Lie out of Heaven into Heh !" 

Dilating with her inward passion, she looked like a pale 
fierce prophetess denouncing the evils of the time, reason 
for the moment seemed to have returned to her, her voice 
was clear, her sentences connected, and Peter and the others 
stared upon her amazed, awed and fascinated. But the rush 
of her wild eloquence exhausted her, she lost breath and 
looked vaguely about her, groping with her hands in a blind 
way, as though she had become suddenly enveloped in dark- 
ness. All at once she sprang forward eagerly with an impetu- 
ous grace and swiftness that caused those around her to fall 
hastily back, except Barabbas, who still tried to hold and 
support her, though she with a gesture of her old pride and 
scorn motioned him away. Alone on the white dusty road 
she stood in a listening attitude, her eyes glittering, her lips 
apart ; evidently she heard, or thought she heard, something 
that to the others who watched her was but silence. The sun 
poured atraightly down upon her, she looked like a fair 
startled sylph in the amber glow of the burning Eastern 
noonday, gi-adually an expression of surprise and then of 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 293 

rapture lighted her pallid face, she lifted her gaze slowly, 
and with seeming wonder and incredulity, fixed her eyes on 
the near grassy slope of the Mount of Olives, where two 
ancient fig-trees twining their gnarled boughs together made 
an arch of dark and soothing shade. Pointing thither with 
one hand, she smiled, and once more her matchless beauty 
flashed up through fonn and face like a flame. 

" Lo, there!" she exclaimed joyously " How is it that ye 
could not find Him ? There is the King !" 

Throwing up her arms, she ran eagerly along a few steps, 
. . . tottered, . . . then fell face forward in the dust and 
there lay; . . . motionless for ever ! She had prayed for the 
pardon of Judas, she had sought and found the " King" ! 

Barabbas, Mary Magdalene and the disciples quickly sur- 
rounded the prone figure shrouded in its gold hair, but ere 
they could raise it, the sound of a horse's hoofs galloping fast 
down the road came closer and closer, and finally stopped. A 
man's voice called out anxiously 

" What have ye there ? Need ye any service?" 

They looked up, and a solemn silence fell upon them. 
For it was Iscariot. He had just returned from a vain search 
for his daughter in the villages of Bethpage and Bethany. 
In one keen glance he read in their awestricken faces his own 
new misery, and dismounting from his horse he dispersed the 
little group with a single tragic gesture of supreme despair. 
The white figure fallen in the dust, the lustrous wonder of the 
hair that covered it as with a mantle, swam before his eyes, 
flinging himself down he clutched wildly at the corpse of that 
fair child of his who had been to his heart above all earthly 
things beloved. 

"Judith I" he cried. 

Then, slowly and shudderingly he lifted the body and turned 
the face upward to the light, . . . alas, the piteous beauty of 
that face ! what sadness, and what wonder in its fixed grave 
smile ! So strongly too did it resemble the face of the dead 
Judas, that had it not been for the wealth of woman's hair 
falling about it, it might have been taken for the fine fair 
remorseful countenance of that self-slain disciple. Yet a 
certain vague joy rested on the quiet features ; one little 
hand pressed against the bosom, held a cross ; this Iscariot 
saw, and wrenching it from the stiffening fingers, flung it in 
the dust. 

" Get hence !" he cried fiercely " Ye madmen of Galilee, 
25* 



294 BARABBAS 

get hence ! Out of my sight, and linger not to triumph in 
my misery 1 Behold, my house is desolate, I have no more 
place or honour in the world ! Rejoice at that, ye enemies 
of Israel ! What care I for your promised heaven ! ye have 
reft from me the joy of earth ! What are your boasted 
miracles ! your resurrections from the grave ! will ye give 
me back my children ? Will ye raise up my son, self-slaugh- 
tered for your Prophet's sake ? Will ye restore to me this 
maid, the daughter of my blood, the treasure of my care ? 
Nay ! ye are liars all ! ye have no power to comfort the 
afflicted, ye cruel preachers of a loveless creed, ye cowards 
and accurst ! Leave me I say ! leave me, . . . alone with 
my dead !" 

And clasping the body of his daughter in his arms, he laid 
his grey head upon her still breast and wept, wept as only 
strong men weep when they are broken-hearted. 

Awed and troubled, and vaguely perplexed too by the 
mystery of a grief and pain too great as it seemed for human 
or divine consolement, the disciples slowly moved away, the 
Magdalen accompanying them sorrowfully, her face veiled 
to hide her tears, and only Barabbas remained beside the 
stricken father to share with him his bitter agony. Once 
Peter looked back and seemed to consider whether he should 
speak. But he hesitated, for what, after all, could he say ? 
He had not the secret of his Divine Master who by a mere 
look could calm a tempest. True, he might have said " Be 
patient, Iscariot ! God will comfort thee !" What ! This, 
to a Pharisee and usurer? Never! Let him, instead of 
children, hug his bags of ill-gotten gold, what Jew with 
wealth hath need of other comfort? So Peter thought, yet 
there was an uneasiness in his mind ; his Master, he well 
knew, would not have acted thus, and he was by his lack of 
broad sympathy, already falsifying and distorting the Divine 
example. Tormented by, yet wilfully deaf to the teasing 
whisper of conscience, he walked on " to meet the Lord" by 
the road to Galilee, half hoping, half fearing, half doubting, 
half believing, an image of the future on which he was 
destined to set his lasting mark. Meanwhile John lingered a 
moment, his earnest gaze rested compassionately on the 
tragic group beneath the olive-boughs, the aged jew clasp- 
ing his dead daughter, his grey locks mingling with her gold, 
and the rugged dark figure of Barabbas standing near ; 
then, stooping, he raised reverently from the dust the cross 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 295 

Iscariot had thrown there, kissed it, laid it against his breast, 
and with fair head bent musiugly and eyes full of dreams, 
went slowly on his way. 



CHAPTER XLVL 

NEARLY a week had elapsed since the miracle of the Resur- 
rection of the Crucified had been reported in Jerusalem. The 
high-priest Caiaphas was recovering rapidly from his well-nigh 
deadly wound, and had so far carried out certain secret plans 
of his as to have had the centurion Galbus, together with his 
companion Maximus, sent hastly out of Judaea and back to 
Rome. Petronius too, the other centurion, suspected of sym- 
pathy with the followers of the " Nazarene" was likewise dis- 
missed, but all three officers had no sooner reached their 
native country than they were at once promoted in the Roman 
legions, by whose good office and influence no one knew, unless 
the stranger Melchior who wore the Emperor's signet had 
something to do with the matter. Meanwhile, it was gen- 
erally understood among the Jews that the body of the 
" Prophet out of Galilee" had been stolen, moreover, that 
the authorities of the Sanhedrim council were already on the 
track of the criminal concerned in the robbery. Public atten- 
tion however, had been somewhat diverted from the matter 
by the grand and picturesque obsequies of Judith Iscariot. 
Never had the city seen such a sight as the long procession of 
white-robed, lily-wreathed maidens who attended the corpse of 
"the fairest woman in Judaea" to its last resting-place bedside 
that of her ill-fated brother. White flowers and white dra- 
peries symbolised to the people's gaze the dead girl's pure 
virginity, and though some shook their heads and shrugged 
their shoulders and whispered rumours of scandal, none dared 
speak boldly of the truths they knew. For Iscariot was a 
power in Jerusalem, his usurer's grip held fast the fortunes 
of many a struggling household, the secret fear of him kept 
would-be rancorous tongues mute. But the proud priest Caia- 
phas hid his burning eyes in the pillows of his sick-bed, and 
smarted in his guiity conscience as he heard the sound of the 



296 BARABBAS 

dreary funeral chant passing by bis palace walls, yet he main- 
tained a rigid silence, and his pale wife Rachel, coldly watch- 
ing him, also held her peace. Between them lay the full and 
true knowledge of Judith's deep dishonour, nevertheless, like 
the murderous dagger she had used, which now was rusting at 
the bottom of a well, that knowledge remained buried in their 
hearts by unspoken yet mutual agreement. 
. All the disciples and followers of the " Nazarene," men and 
women alike, had left Jerusalem, some for fear of the priests, 
some to return to their own homes in the country districts, 
and the city inhabitants were beginning to fall back into their 
usual methods of living, methods which had been so strangely 
disorganised by late events. Joseph of Arimathea had had 
his tomb, now rendered so sacred, hewn open from the top 
that it might be more readily examined within and without, 
and disgusted with the callousness and suspicions of the priests, 
himself entirely believing in the Divine Resurrection from the 
Dead, sold his fine house in Jerusalem, gave all the proceeds 
to the poor and departed to his native humble town of Arima- 
thea, there to dwell in retirement for good. Among other 
gossip of the town it was rumoured that Pilate, the governor, 
had written letters to the Emperor Tiberius, asking to be re- 
called to Rome, on the plea of ill-health, but of this, nothing 
was known for certain. 

It was about the eighth day after the first Easter, and 
over the little village of Nazareth the sun was sinking. A 
blaze of royal gold and purple falling aslant from the west 
reddened the outlying fertile valley and surrounding cornfields, 
and poured warm splendour through the open doorway of a 
small dark dwelling where sat an aged man, alone at a carpenter's 
bench, working busily, though sunset was the usual sign for 
rest from labour. He was finishing a wooden cradle of which 
every portion was panelled into squares of curious and elaborate 
carving. His wrinkled hands manipulated the carving tools 
with singular swiftness and dexterity, and as he fashioned a 
flower or a leaf in the design, he worked with the minute and 
fastidious care of an artist who loves the labour he has chosen. 
Beside him on the bench lay a fresh-gathered branch of field- 
lilies, he was copying these on a square of wood with ex- 
traordinary fidelity. The red glow of the skies illumined his 
bent, roughly-clad figure, and set a rose-halo round his snow- 
white hair, he was completely absorbed in his toil, so much 
so that he did not hear an approaching slow footstep at hia 



A DREAM OF TEE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 297 

door, or see the shadow which darkened it and partially robbed 
him of the sun. 

"Art thou Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth?" said a 
harsh sad voice, suddenly addressing him "And dost thou 
work thus peacefully without mourning, thy son being dead 
yonder in Jerusalem ?" 

The old man started. Laying down the panel he was carving, 
.he shaded his eyes with one hand from the sun, and looked up 
jdirnly and wonderingly at his questioner. He saw before him 
/a tall broad-shouldered man, dark and fierce-featured, travel- 
worn and dusty, with terrible black eyes that burned beneath 
his shaggy brows with the danger-fires born of long pent-up 
unshed tears. 

" What stranger art thou ?" he demanded " Why comest 
thou hither?" 

" I am an outcast of the world, by name Barabbas," and 
as the intruder gave this answer, he moved a step or two within 
the shed " Thus have I answered thee straightway but to me 
thou offerest no quick reply. I have come hither from Jeru- 
salem, impelled by a desire to find thee and to speak with thee, 
if peradventure thou art he of whom the people tell me. 
Wherefore I ask again, art thou or art thou not Joseph, son 
of Jacob, a descendant of the House of David, and father of 
Him who was called ' the King of the Jews' ?" 

Rising from his bench, the venerable man confronted his 
importunate visitor. 

" Yea, I am Joseph :" he answered mildly. 

Barabbas, gaunt and worn with sorrow, sleeplessness and 
fatigue, fixed upon him a piercing look as though he sought to 
read the inmost secrets of his soul. 

" Surely thou art a poor and aged man" he muttered faintly 
" On the brink of the grave thy feet are treading, with 
that darkness waiting for thee, that darkness in which we know 
not what may chance to us, thou wilt not lie ! I shall find 
truth in thee doubtless, truth truth at last" 

His voice failed him, his eyes closed, he dropped wearily 
on a low bench near the door. He had travelled for two days 
with scarcely any rest or food, and in his exhausted condition 
it was some minutes before he perceived that Joseph was prof- 
fering him a wooden bowl full of pure cool water. He drank 
gratefully, and recovering himself a little he again turned his 



eyes on the imposing, reverend figure beside him. 
" I ain Barabbas" he repeated presently after a 



pause, 



298 BARABBAS 

" But perchance that Dame doth tell thee nothing. Hear then 
its meaning. I have been thief, rebel and murderer, no good 
thing is there in my mind towards any man ; by right and 
justice I should have been crucified instead of Him who was 
thy Son, for He was innocent and I am guilty. But if thou 
knowest the world's ways, this will not seem unto thee strange, 
for man's laws are made to excuse man's guilt, and innocence 
is ever slain, being a virtue unrequired, an aggravation and re- 
proach to wickedness. So hath it been in Jerusalem these past 
wild days, and so methinks will it ever be in all the laby- 
rinths of this life. Freedom hath done me little service, I 
have lived centuries of grief since the doors of my prison were 
unbarred, I thirsted for my liberty, it came, but brought 
me naught but sorrow, rather would I have died than suffered 
as I have suffered, death did never seem to me so sweet and 
welcome as now, God knoweth it 1 Thou lookest at me with 
most unmoved and placid face, carest thou not that they have 
slain thy son ?" 

Joseph said no word, but stood immovably erect, the sunset- 
glow shining warmly about him and widening its ring of glory 
round his silvery hair. 

" Howbeit now it seems they nave not slain Him after all, 
and thou perchance dost know it" went on Barabbas, watch- 
ing for some change of expression in the old man's peaceful 
countenance " And all the world is growing mad with talk 
of ' miracles.' He hath arisen living from the dead, and hath 
appeared to His followers part of this tale is true, but has 
no ' miracle' in it, inasmuch as I am sure He never died. He 
swooned upon the Cross and recovered in the tomb, and doubt- 
less will appear to men for many years to come, and thus will 
be confirmed the story of His resurrection. Markest thou 
this ? No Diviuity was in this Man, nor any sort of ' miracle ;' 
thou, Joseph, dost not assume Divinity for the Child begotten 
of thy will and born of thy blood in mortal fashion as all 
creatures of mortality are born ?" 

He had spoken in tones that were purposely cold and matter- 
of-fact, yet under his assumed composure there was concealed 
a keen and painful anxiety. Still silent, Joseph stood, a regal 
figure, bathed in the purple and gold reflections of the evening 
skies. At last Barabbas could bear the suspense no longer, 
his suppressed impatience broke forth in a kind of fury. 

" Speak, man, speak I" he cried passionately " Oh, if thou 
knewest my tortures ! Lo, I have seen this Man, this ' King 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 299 

of the Jews,' in all His fair, heroic appalling beauty ! His 
face, His voice, His aspect haunt me ! His patient eyes 
consume my soul ! Man or God, whiche'er He be, in very 
truth His looks were more of God than Man, His ten- 
derness was more than human ! Men are cruel to each 
other, He was pitiful, men complain, He never mur- 
mured ! I watched Him die, He made a glory out of pain ! 
and on the morn when it was said He had risen from His 
grave, I, even I myself, saw Him walking softly 'mid the 
shadows of the dawn and speaking ay ! to whom, thinkest 
thou, did He speak? To a broken-hearted woman whose sins 
He had forgiven 1 'Twas marvellous, no man newly escaped 
from the grave would have stopped for this methinks, yet 
God, we are taught, is vengeful, wherefore it seeuis this 
' Nazarene' is neither man nor god. Oh that I knew Him as 
He truly is ! I would dare all things for this one instruction I 
Lo, I have pleaded even with His mother, thy wife, praying 
her to tell me of His birth which now is also said to be a 
' miracle' but she was dumb, even as thou art, and while I 
looked upon her a great light shone about her face, a light 
mystic and wonderful that filled my soul with fear. Even 
such a splendour did invest the ' Nazarene' when I beheld Him 
in the Hall of Judgment, beauty and light seemed portion 
of His nature. Nevertheless the terror of this mystery doth 
madden me ; hence I have come to thee ; speak thou the 
truth, Joseph, as simple man and honest, and tell me all thou 
can'st of this same Jesus, the wonder of Judaea, thou, as 
His father must know everything concerning Him, even from 
the very hour that He was born into the world ! Wherefore, 
if only out of mercy to my pain and ignorance I do beseech 
thee, speak !" 

" What can I tell thee, tortured soul !" said Joseph at last, 
in solemn compassionate accents " Save that the Man Divine 
was not my Son !" 

Barabbas sprang up and caught him convulsively by the arm. 

"Not thy Son!" he echoed u Was not Mary thy wife? 
Hast thou no children ?" 

" None who call Her their mother," replied Joseph 
" Children indeed I have, but these were born to me in early 
manhood by my first wedded wife long dead. Mary I knew 
not save as one removed from earth, a heavenly Virgin whose 
white purity and singular destiny I was commanded to defend." 

' But dicTst thou not espouse her?" 



300 BARABBAS 

" Even as I was bidden" answered Joseph simply " And 
worshipped her as Angel and as Queen !" 

"Ah, now thou also dost conluse me with vain words" 
exclaimed Barabbas half angrily " Why dost thou name her 
thus royally ? Many of the people say she was a stray maiden 
out of Egypt." 

A dreamy rapt look came into Joseph's deep-set eyes. 

" If she was of any earthly land she was of Egypt," he said 
musingly " And to Egypt I was bidden to take her for pro- 
tection when Herod the tyrant threatened the life of her young 
Child. When first I met her, 'twas in spring, a quiet evening 
in the month of May, she walked alone across the fields, like 
a phantom of the moon with a strange light in her hair, and a 
stranger glory in her eyes ! methought that I had met an angel 
out of heaven, and down among the flowerets at her feet I knelt 
adoringly !" He paused in a sort of ecstasy then resumed 
calmly " 'Twas at her will and wish that I espoused her in 
the sight of man ; once, to speak truth, I hesitated, fearing 
evil, but then again the bidding came and I obeyed it." 

"Why speakest thou of bidding or forbidding?" cried Ba- 
rabbas, perplexed and baffled u What meanest thou ? Was 
not this Jesus born of Mary ? and didst thou not espouse her, 
woman or angel or queen. no matter whence she came or at 
what hour, was ehe not thine?" 

" No !" answered Joseph with sudden and passionate vehe- 
mence " Dare not to utter such a blasphemy ! She was never 
mine, never, by look or word or touch or breath ! The angels 
were her friends, they sang to her from the furthest stars on 
the night of her Child's birth, I was her faithful servant 
only !" 

" Thou ravest !" and Barabbas, strung up to a nervous pitch 
of excitement, could scarcely restrain his deepening sense of 
incredulity and anger " Thou art as mad as all the rest of 
those concerned in this strange business ! But I have come 
to thee for truth, and truth I will wrest from thee despite eva- 
sion ! Thou poor, frail man ! dost thou not fear death ? 
and wilt thou on the very edge of thy near tomb, play with 
delusion and pronounce a lie? Thou knewest the birth of 
Mary's Child; if He was not thy Son, whose Son was 
He?" 

A sudden shadow swept the floor, the sun had sunk ; 
there was a momentary dread silence that made itself almost 
felt. The chill grey of the evening crept stealthily over tha 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 301 

mitside landscape, and in the semi-gloom of the hut, the two 
men stood facing each other, speechless and trembling. 

" Whose Son" repeated Barabbas in a faint awed whisper 
"was He?" 

A vague terror and bewilderment clouded Joseph's features. 
Raising his hands with an eloquent gesture of solemn earnest- 
ness, he looked full at the daring questioner. 

" In the name of the great God that made us," he said trem- 
ulously " I swear I never knew ! I never knew ! I only 
. . . dreamed !" 

As he spoke, a flashing light poured itself swiftly aslant in 
a golden blaze athwart the deepening dusk ; affrighted at the 
sudden brilliancy, he turned quickly round towards the open 
doorway, . . . then with a wild cry ... 

" Lo there ! there !" he gasped " Behold Him where He 
stands ! Ask Him, not me ! Question Him concerning that 
to which no mortal man hath answer !" 

And falling to the ground he covered his face, while Ba- 
rabbas staggered back amazed, blinded, breathless, and smitten 
with terror ; before him, in silent, royal, radiant beauty stood 
the " Nazarene" ! 



CHAPTER XLVIL 

THE same lustrous Face that had shone in pale splendour on 
the Cross, the same deep Eyes that had looked their dying 
pardon on the world, the same, the very same ! the one 
recognisable Beloved through all ages, " the same yesterday 
to-day and for ever." And yet how transfigured was that 
Human Semblance ! how permeated through and through with 
the glory of the Divine ! Light streamed above and below the 
Kingly Form that seemed clad in cloud and fire, rays of 
celestial gold flashed round the god-like brows ; all the majesty 
of morning, noon and night, and all the mystic secrets of crea- 
tion were centred in the lightning glances that with power shed 
forth love, love unutterable and vast, love beyond any mortal 
comprehension, love flung out inimitably as sunshine, a<j 
widely as the sweet ungrudging air ! Fearing greatly, but still 
doubting the testimony of his own sight and sense, Barabbas 
knelt and gazed appealingly at the supernal Vision, asking him- 
26 



302 BARABBAS 

self the while whether it were a phantom of his mind, or the 
reflex of a marvellous Reality. Seeking to be convinced, he 
forced himself to note the trivial things of every day around 
him, the carpenter's bench, the branch of lilies lying across 
it, the implements of wood-carving, all these evidences of 
practical toil and daily life he realised in every detail. There 
too a little apart from him knelt the aged Joseph, his face 
covered in his mantle, a figure real and tangible and earthly ; 
and out through the open doorway, beyond the Angel-stature 
of the Shining One, stretched the cool length of the meadow 
opposite and the further cornfields dimly seen in the darkening 
eve. It was no dream then ! the world was the world still 
and not a chaos of spectral fancies ; this great " King" standing 
patiently upon the humble threshold of His childhood's hab- 
itation was no phantom but a glorious living Truth ! and as 
Barabbas gradually became conscious of this, he prayed in- 
wardly that he might die at so supreme a moment of tran- 
scendent ecstasy. And presently he felt a yearning impulse to 
draw nearer to the Divine Presence, and at the first thrill of 
this desire in his soul, the Vision seemed to smile a welcome. 
Nearer and nearer still he crept, with beating heart and strug- 
gling breath, he a poor mortal sinner dared to approach im- 
mortal Purity, till at last he could almost feel the quivering 
of the lambent light that glittered in a golden aureole round 
the risen Form of the world's Redeemer. 

" Master, is it Thou !" he whispered " Thou, in very truth ! 
why hast Thou come to me when I have doubted Thee? 
Punish me, I beseech Thee, with the judgment due unto my 
sin and disbelief ; I am unfit for life or death ; here at Thy 
feet I fain would perish utterly !" 

Deep silence answered him, such tender silence as soothes 
the weary into rest. Trembling, he ventured to lift his eyes, 
the wondrous love and glory of the Countenance he looked 
upon filled him with rapture, his long-imprisoned suffering 
soul awoke at last to the full consciousness of an immortal 
destiny. 

" I believe ! I believe in Thee, Thou Divine !" he cried 
" Lellne"foIIow Thee wheresoe'er Thou goest ! Let me not lose 
Thee, the one Truth in a false world! Take me with Thee, 
the servant of Thy will, beyond the things of earth and time, 
no matter where all must be well if Thou dost guide !" 

As he thus made his passionate supplication, the luminous 
Figure moved slowly backward, turned, and passed floatingly 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 303 

in a path of light across the meadows, Barabbas hastily rose 
to his feet and followed fast. Seeing nothing, knowing nothing, 
remembering nothing save that crowned Wonder of the Ages 
that glided on before him, he brushed his way through fragrant 
flowers, and seemed to walk on air. A great joy possessed 
him, such joy as once he would have deemed impossible to 
win, the soft breeze blowing against his face felt like a caresa 
from heaven, he was dimly aware that a few stars were hang- 
ing like drops of dew in the dusky ether, but the exaltation 
of his spirit was such that earth and all its manifold beauty 
weighed but as one drop in the wave of ecstasy that absorbed 
his every sense. All at once on the shadowy bend of a little 
hill, the radiant Vision paused, . . . then like a cloud dis- 
solving into air, suddenly vanished ! 

Barabbas halted abruptly and looked about him. He was 
already some miles away from Nazureth, and there was dark- 
ness before him where there had been light. But happiness 
stayed within his soul and he was not in any way anxious or 
disheartened. The great " King" had disappeared, but what 
then ! His departure was but temporary, He lived and He 
would come again. Exulting in the joy of faith, Barabbas 
raised his eyes to the quiet heaven, and wondered whether 
there were truly such a thing as misery ? could man be 
wretched with a God for his friend, and the certainty of life 
immortal ? Who would sit down and grieve for loss of love, 
for death or ill fortune in the world, when all evil was destined 
to be changed to good in the end ? And the once sorrowful 
and embittered Barabbas was content, his doubts were set 
at rest for ever. 

"'Twas a God they slew!" he said " Tis a God that is 
arisen from the grave ! And to that God, the Christ and Sa- 
viour of mankind, I render up my soul !" 

He uttered the words aloud, in the full belief that they were 
heard. And though no answer came in mortal speech, there 
was bestowed upon him the sweetest sense of rest and peace 
and gladness his life had ever known. Cheerily and in perfect 
confidence he moved onward in the path where he had found 
himself set according to the following of the " Master ;" it led 
straight over the hills and back to Jerusalem. As he went, he 
resolved his plans. He would return to his strange acquaint- 
ance Melchior, who had always bidden him to believe in the 
Divinity of the " Nazarene," and who had placed no obstacles 
whatever in the way of his endeavouring to find out truth for 



304 BARABBAS 

himself, and to him first he would narrate his adventure at 
Nazareth. Then he would declare his faith, not only to Mel- 
chior but to every one who asked him concerning it, he would 
show no hesitation or shame in the full confession of his happy 
change. What the result would be he did not consider, the 
inward spiritual strength he felt made him totally indifferent to 
earthly consequences. The cruelty, the rancour and malice of 
men were powerless to touch him henceforth ; for the bitterest 
suffering, the most agonising martyrdom would seem easy of 
endurance to one who had truly seen the Christ, knowing that 
it was Christ indeed ! 

Of Joseph to whom he had paid so abrupt a visit he thought 
no more. Could he have known what had chanced, the shadow 
of a vague regret might in part have clouded his own personal 
joy. Some people of Nazareth going early to their labour in 
the cornfields noticed that the familiar and reverend figure of 
the old man was not seen at work as usual ; and they straight- 
way went to inquire the cause. They found him resting easily 
on the ground, his white head leaning against the carpenter's 
bench on which a branch of lilies lay slowly withering, his 
eyes were closed in apparent deep and placid slumber. Two of 
his sons came in and strove to rouse him ; and not till they had 
lilted him up and carried him out to the open air where they 
laid him down on the grass among the nodding field-flowers, 
with face upturned to the sun, did they discover that he had 
quietly passed away into the living splendour of eternal things, 
where age is turned to youth, and the darkest " dreams" make 
their meanings clear I 



CHAPTER XLVIII. 

. THE broad lustre of a full moon spread itself like powdered 
silver over the walls and turrets of Jerusalem on the night 
Barabbas returned thither from his journey to Nazareth. He 
arrived late and the gates of the city were locked, but he 
succeeded in rousing a sleepy watchman who came out of the 
guard-room in answer to his summons and was about to unbar 
a side portal and let him through, when suddenly pausing in 
his intent, he rubbed his drowsy eyes and stared, astonished. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 305 

" Why, art tbou not Barabbas?" he exclaimed. 

" Yea, truly am 1 1 What then ? Hast business with me ?" 

But the watchman gave him no direct reply. Dropping the 
bolt he had just withdrawn back into its place he shouted 
aloud 

"Ho there ! Waken, ye lazy rascals, and come forth ! Here 
is the man ye seek, Barabbas !" 

There followed a hoarse shout, a hasty trampling of feet and 
the clash of armour, and almost before the bewildered Barabbas 
could realise what had happened, he was surrounded by soldiers, 
seized and taken prisoner. Perplexed but not dismayed, he 
made no effort to escape. He glanced from one to the other 
of his captors, they were Romans and all strangers to him. 

" What jest is this?" he demanded " Why do ye suddenly 
maltreat me thus ? Surely ye know the people's vote hath set 
me free, for what cause am I again a captive ?" 

" Hold thy peace, ruffian !" said one of the men angrily 
" 'Tis not for criminals to question law !" 

" Full well I know I am a criminal," responded Barabbaa 
patiently " Nevertheless by law my crimes were lately par- 
doned. Of what new fault am I accused?" 

" Of a base attempt to murder the high-priest Caiaphas 1" 
answered an officer who seemed to be the leader of the band 
" He hath nearly died of a deadly wound inflicted by a secret 
assassin, and he doth swear thou art the man 1 Moreover thou 
art also judged guilty of connivance with the followers of the 
' Nazarene' in plot to steal His body from the tomb officially 
sealed. Thou wert seen in converse with a woman of ill fame 
named Magdalen, thou wert also in the company of Simon 
Peter, and again, certain comrades-at-arms of ours met thee 
on the morning when the corpse of the ' Nazarene' was missing, 
on the highroad to the sepulchre. These be proofs enough 
against thee, remembering thy former reputation 1 and for 
these things thou shalt surely die !" 

Barabbas heard all this with a curious passiveness. 

" Caiaphas doth accuse me thus ?" he asked. 

" Caiaphas hath denounced thee unto Pilate, and most 
furiously demands thy punishment" was the reply " Ques- 
tion thy fate no more, but come thou with us quietly, and fight 
not uselessly against thy destiny." 

Barabbas smiled. The plans of Caiaphas were singularly 
transparent reading ! To shield the dead Judith Iscariot and 
himself from suspicion and slander, he had cunningly devised 
t* 26* 



3Ub' BARABBAS 

this false accusation against an already known criminal, more- 
over he was hereby able to indulge his own private spite and 
vengeance against Barabbas for ever having been one of 
Judith's many lovers. The additional charge made, that of 
stealing the body of the Crucified from the tomb, was to 
throw dust in the people's eyes, and silence, if possible, all 
rumours respecting the miracle of the Resurrection. The whole 
situation was perfectly clear, but the victim of the high- 
priest's crafty scheme was in no wise disconcerted by evil cir- 
cumstance. Addressing the officer who had condescended to 
give him an explanation of the cause of his sudden arrest, he 
said gently 

" Friend, be assured that whatsoe'er my destiny I am pre- 
pared to meet it !" and he held out his wrists that they might 
be more easily manacled " I am innocent this time of the 
deeds whereof I am accused, howbeit, innocence doth count 
as nothing in the working of the world's laws, wherefore I 
say, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth I am willing and ready 
to die 1" 

" Rash fool !" cried a soldier, striking him " Dare not to 
speak thus if thou dost value life ! That utterence of thine 
alone is blasphemy ! rank blasphemy enough to slay thee !" 

" And as I shall be slain, the manner of my speech doth 
little matter" responded Barabbas tranquilly " Methinks a 
man should speak the truth that is within him, no matter 
whether death or life be imminent. Come, come 1 lead on ! 
Quarrel not ; this is no time for quarrelling. Ye are but the 
hirelings of the law, and cannot help but do the deeds that are 
commanded ; let us be friends, good Romans ! I bear you no 
ill-will. See 1 I struggle not at all ; ye are well within your 
right ye must obey authority, albeit that authority be of earth 
and brief withal. I also must obey authority, but the com- 
mands that I receive are changeless, and whosoever disobeys 
them is accurst 1" 

His eyes flashed a sombre glory as he spoke, as the fetters 
were fastened on his wrists, he smiled again. 

" He is mad !" said the soldiers, vaguely awed and ex- 
changing wondering glances " They say he loved Judith 
Iscariot; perchance her death hath turned his brain." 

Barabbas heard them whispering thus among themselves, but 
gave no outward sign of attention. Judith Iscariot ! Yes, he 
had loved her and he loved her still, being dead, she was far 
dearer to him than if she had lived on. For she was now no 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 307 

longer Judith Iscariot, she was a new creature, removed, in- 
definable and mystic, a spirit released, to good or evil, who 
could say ? but at any rate safe from the clamour of the world 
and the deeper taint of sin. Full of his own meditations, he 
maintained an absolute silence while the soldiers marched him 
quickly through the streets of the slumbering city, to the 
gloomy prison, where the formidable gates that had so lately 
opened to release him, once more enclosed him, and shut out, 
as he felt for ever, all hope of earthly freedom. 

" What 1 Art thou back again, Barabbas ?" growled the 
gaoler, flashing his lantern into the prisoner's eyes as he spoke 
" Well, well! what folly will do for a man ! 'Tis but a 
fortnight surely since thou wert set at liberty, with all the 
people cheering thee, yet thou hast such an ingrained bad 
nature thou can'st not keep thee out of mischief. They cru- 
cified thy yelping dog of a comrade, Hanan, now it is likely 
they will crucify thee. What sayest thou to that for a finish 
to a rogue's career ?" 

Barabbas was mute. Sudden tears swam in his eyes, he 
was thinking of a Supreme Figure, and a Divine Face, that on 
the Cross had made death glorious. 

" Mum as a post, sullen as a bear !" continued the gaoler 
gruffly " Such as thou art are the worst characters. There is 
no hope for the surly and impenitent ! Come hither and take 
possession of thy former cell not a soul hath been in it, save 
perchance a starving rat, since thou wert there. Get thee in 
and make thy peace with Heaven !" 

He opened the door of the very same wretched den in which 
Barabbas had already passed eighteen months of rebellious pain 
and misery, and made as though he would thrust his captive 
in. Barabbas paused on the threshold, and looked him frankly 
in the face. 

" Nay, be not rough with me !" he said gently " There is 
no need for anger. This time I am innocent of all the faults 
whereof I am wrongfully accused. Nevertheless I was most 
wrongfully released, 'twas the people's caprice and no true 
justice ; wherefore I am ready now to atone. And surely as 
thou sayest, I will strive to make my peace with Heaven !" 

A great beauty illumined his dark features, his eyes were 
soft and earnest, on his lips there rested a faint grave smile. 

The gaoler stared at him, perplexed and dimly touched. 

" An' thou art civil-tongued I will not vex thy last hours" 
he said, in friendlier accents" Thou'lt have a full day's peni- 



308 BARABBAS 

tence, the Council will not sit to-morrow. Thou shalt not 
starve or thirst meanwhile, for though I know thou art a rank 
villain I'll see to that, more I cannot do for thee, so make 
the best of thy old lodging." 

He closed the iron door, bolting and barring it with heavy 
noise, Barabbas listened, with an instinctive sense that for 
him it barred out the world eternally. Standing upright, he 
looked about him. The same dungeon ! the same narrow line 
of light piercing the thick obscurity 1 It fell from the moon, 
a pure stream of silver, and he sat down presently on a stone 
projection of the wall to watch it. In this attitude, with face 
lifted to the mild radiance, he was happy and at rest, his 
wretched prison seemed beautiful to him, and the prospect of 
a speedy death contained no terror but rather joy. 

He passed the night tranquilly, in wakeful meditation, till 
the arrowy moonbeam in his cell changed to a golden shaft 
shot aslant from the rising sun. With the morning the gaoler 
brought him food and drink, and asked him whether he had 
slept. 

" Not I !" he answered cheerfully " 'Twas nigh on the ap- 
proach of dawn when I came hither, and the pleasure of my 
thoughts did banish slumber. Is it a fair day ?" 

" Yea, 'tis a fair day," replied the gaoler, secretly marvel- 
ling at the composure of the captive " Though methinks thou 
should'st be little interested in the weather fair or foul. Thou 
hast another day and night to pass alive, in the pleasure of thy 
thoughts as thou sayest, and after that thou wilt think no 
more ! Knowest thou of what thou art suspect ?" 

" Something have I heard," responded Barabbas " But 
truly I suspect myself of more sins than Councils wot of 1" 

The gaoler stared and shrugged his shoulders. 

" Thou speakest in riddles," he said" And thou art alto- 
gether a strange rascal. Nevertheless I have made inquiry 
concerning thee. Thy case is hopeless for 'tis Caiaphas who 
doth accuse thee." 

" This doth not astonish me ;" said Barabbas. 

" He hath reason then ?" 

" Nay, he hath no reason. But I find nothing marvellous 
in that a priest should lie !" 

The gaoler chuckled hoarsely. 

"I like thee for that saying! rogue as thou art I like 
thee !" and he rubbed his hands complacently " Thou hast 
wit and sense withal ! Why, man, if God is anything of the 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 309 

likenesa His priests would make Him out to be, He is the 
worst and most boastful tyrant that ever wreaked havoc on man- 
kind 1 But take heed to thyself ! speak not thus rashly, , 
think on the ' Nazarene' who set Himself against this priestcraft, 
and would have had it all abolished or made new had He ob- 
tained His will. He had a daring spirit, that young Man of 
Nazareth ! I myself once heard Him say that it was not well 
to pray in public places to be seen of men. This was a blow di- 
rect at the keeping up of temples and fat priests to serve in them, 
but look you He suffered for His boldness and though 'twas 
said He was the Son of God, that did not save Him" 

" Prithee be reverent in thy speech," interposed Barabbas 
gently " Take heed thyself that thou blaspheme not ! He 
was, He is the Son of God ! the Risen from the Dead, the 
Saviour of the world, as such I know and do acknowledge 
Him !" 

" By Israel, now do I see that thou art mad !" cried the 
gaoler backing away from him " Mad, raving mad ! touched 
by the fever of miracles that hath lately plagued Jerusalem j 
this ' Nazarene' hath bewitched the very air 1 Prate to thy- 
self of such follies, not to me ; I have no patience with dis- 
tempered brains. Prepare thee for thy cross to-morrow ! 
this will be more wholesome meditation for thy mind. Thou 
wilt see me no more ; I was sorry for thy ups and downs of 
fortune, thy brief glimpse of freedom finishing in new im- 
prisonment ; but now, verily as I live, I think thee danger- 
ous and only fit to die !" 

With these words he turned to leave the dungeon ; Barabba? 
extended his fettered hands. 

" Farewell, friend !" he said. 

The gaoler looked round grudgingly and in ill-humour, he 
was vexed with himself at the singular interest this man Ba- 
rabbas had awakened in him, and he was ashamed to show it. 
He eyed the tall, muscular figure up and down severely, and 
met the full calm gaze of the dark earnest eyes, then, as it 
were against his own will, he hastily grasped the hands and as 
hastily let them go. 

" Farewell 1" he responded curtly " "When thou diest, die 
bravely 1" 

And he disappeared, making more clanging noise than usual 
in his impatient bolting aud barring of the door. 

Left alone, Barabbas fell back into his former train of happy 
musing. Of the narrow discomfort, heat and darkness of hia 



310 BARABBAS 

miserable dungeon he was scarcely conscious, be was more 
triumphant than any conquering king in the fulness and joy 
of the knowledge of things eternal. He had been lifted to 
that sublimity and supremacy of pure faith which alone en- 
ables a man to bear sorrow nobly, to dare all things and hope 
all things ; the warm sweet certainty of something higher, 
grander and lovelier than this life and all that it contains, 
nestled in his heart like a brooding bird and kept him glad and 
tranquil. At times he felt a strong desire to pray to that Di- 
vine Friend who after guiding him a little way had suddenly 
departed from him on the hills above Nazareth, to ask Him 
to bestow the beauty of His glorious Presence on His wor- 
shipping servant once again. But he checked this longing, 
it seemed like a renewal of doubt, as if he sought to be 
convinced and re-convinced of truth immutably declared. To 
pray for further benefit after so much had been bestowed 
would surely be both selfish and ungrateful. Therefore he 
made no appeal, but sat in solitary communing with his own 
soul, which now, completely aroused to the long-withheld con- 
sciousness of immortality, already aspired to its native sover- 
eignty in glorious worlds unseen. 

The day wore slowly onward, and again the night dropped 
down its dusky purple curtain patterned with the stars and 
moon. A pleasant sense of weariness overcame Barabbas at 
last, he took no thought for the morrow on which it seemed 
likely he would be tried before Caiaphas, found guilty and put 
to death, except in so far that he had resolved to make no 
defence, as he could not do so without implicating the dead 
Judith. Also, he had determined that when questioned con- 
cerning the supposed theft of the body of the Christ from the 
sepulchre, he would openly declare his faith, and would pro- 
nounce before all the scribes and Pharisees the adjuration ; 
" Jesus of Nazareth, Son of the living God! 11 And with this 
very phrase upon his lips, he threw himself down upon the 
straw that was heaped in one corner of his dungeon, closed his 
eyes and fell fast asleep. 

In his sleep he dreamed a pleasing dream. He fancied he 
was lying on a couch of emerald moss, softer than softest vel- 
vet, that flowers of every hue and every fragrance were 
blossoming round him, and that beside him sat a shining 
figure in white, weaving a crown of thornless roses. " Where 
have I wandered ?" he murmured " Into what wondrous 
country of fair sights and sounds ?" And the angelic shape 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 3H 

beside him made musical response, "Thou hast reached a 
place of shelter out of storm, and after many days of watch- 
ing and of trouble we have persuaded thee hither. Rest now 
and take thy joy freely ; thou art safe in the King's Garden !" 

With these words ringing yet in his ears he suddenly awoke, 
and waking, wondered what ailed him. He felt faint and 
giddy ; the walls of his prison appeared to rock to and fro as 
in an earthquake, and the nightly moonbeam falling aslant, 
struck his eyes sharply like a whip of fire. Something cold 
and heavy pressed with numbing force upon his heart, an icy 
sense of suffocation rose in his throat, and in the acute suffer- 
ing of the moment, he struggled to his feet, though he could 
scarcely stand and only breathed with difficulty. The blood 
galloped feverishly in his veins, then abruptly stilled itself 
and seemed to freeze, the chill pang at his heart ceased, leav- 
ing his limbs numb and quivering. Exhausted by this spasm 
of physical agony, his head dropped feebly on his breast and he 
leaned against the wall for support panting for breath, . . . 
when, ... all at once a great light, like the pouring-out of 
liquid gold, flashed dazzlingly into his cell ! He looked up, 
. . . and uttered a cry of rapture ! Again, again ! face to 
face with him in his lonely dungeon, he beheld the " Naza- 
rene !" The Vision Beautiful ! the shining Figure, the radi- 
ant Face of the Divine " Man of Sorrows 1" this was the 
marvellous Glory revealed within the gloom ! 

Awed, but not afraid, Barabbas raised his eyes to his super- 
nal Visitant. 

" Lord Lord !" he gasped faintly stretching his manacled 
hands blindly forth " I am not worthy I Why hast Thou 
come to me ? I, Barabbas, am unfit to look upon Thee ! I 
should have died upon the cross, not Thou ! Command me 
therefore to some place of punishment, some desert in the 
darkest ways of death ! there let me rid myself of sin, if this 
be possible, by faith in Thee by love !" 

He broke off, trembling, and the great Christ seemed to 
smile. Filled with excess of joy, he now beheld that Divine 
Figure bending tenderly towards him, gentle Hands were laid 
upon his bruised and fettered wrists ; Hands that drew him 
close and closer yet, slowly and surely upwards, upwards into 
puch light and air as never gladdened earth, and a thrilling 
Voice whispered 

" Whosoever believeth in Me shall not abide in Darkness ! 
Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord /" 



312 BARABBAS 

The light widened into a rippling sea of gold and azure, 
the dungeon walls appeared to totter and crumble to nothing- 
ness, bright forms of beauty grew up like flowers out of the 
clear pure space ; and such symphonic music sounded as made 
the rolling of planets in their orbits seem but the distant lesser 
notes of the vast eternal melody ; and thus, clinging close to 
the strong Hands that held his, and looking with wondering 
grateful ecstasy into the Divine eyes that smiled their pardon 
and eternal love upon him, Barabbas left his prison and went 
forth, into the " glorious liberty of the free 1" 



With the early dawn of the next day two men descended 
together in haste to visit the dungeon. One was the gaoler 
the other was the stranger Melchior. 

"They shall not crucify Barabbas" said the latter re- 
solvedly " I will be answerable for him, and myself defend 
him at his trial." 

" Thou speakest boldly !" returned the gaoler, eyeing him 
dubiously " But though thou hast the Emperor's signet, and 
Caiaphas hath given thee permit to see the prisoner, these 
favours will not stay the progress of the law." 

" Maybe not !" said Melchior impatiently " Nevertheless 
the makers of the law in Jerusalem are corrupt ; and their 
corruption shall be blazoned to the world if this lately par- 
doned man be again made to suffer. What influence can be 
obtained for him shall most assuredly be used. There is much 
good in this Barabbas." 

Here they reached the dungeon. Quickly unlocking the 
door, the gaoler peered in. 

" Barabbas I" 

No answer was returned. 

" Barabbas, come forth !" 

Still silence. 

"He sleeps soundly," said the gaoler, taking down a lan- 
tern which hung on the outside wall for use and lighting it, 
" We must needs go in and rouse him." 

Lamp in hand he entered the dismal cell, Melchior following. 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 313 

Barabbas lay on the ground, apparently sunk in a deep and 
peaceful slumber ; his manacled hands were folded cross-wise 
on his breast. Melchior stepped hurriedly forward and bent 
down over him. 

" Barabbas 1" 

But Barabbas rested gravely mute. A flash from the 
prison-lantern showed that a smile was on his face, and that 
his dark and rugged features were smoothed and tranquillised 
into an expression of exceeding beauty. There was something 
grand and impressive in the aspect of his powerful figure lying 
thus passive in an attitude of such complete repose, his 
crossed hands and closed eyes suggested that eternal calm 
wherein, as in a deep sea is found the pearl of Infinite Knowl- 
edge. 

Melchior rose from his brief examination of the quiet form ; 
a vague melancholy shadowed his face. 

" We need argue no more concerning the fate of Barabbas 1" 
he said in hushed accents " Neither signets of emperors nor 
authority of priests can avail him now ! We come too late. 
Whatever were his passions or crimes they are pardoned, 
and a Higher Power than ours hath given him his liberty. 
Carry him forth gently ; he is dead !" 



EPILOGUE. 

ONE afternoon at sunset two travellers stood together, look- 
ing their last on the white walls and enclosed gardens of Jeru- 
salem. Silently absorbing the scene, they watched from a 
little hill above the city, the red sky glow like a furnace over 
the roofs and turrets, and flash fire upon the architectural 
splendour of that "jewel of the earth" known as Solomon's 
Temple. They could see the summit of Calvary, bare and 
brown and deserted, and in the lower distance the thick green 
foliage of Gethsemane. One of them, a man of singular 
height and massive build, knelt on the turf, and fixed his eyes 
with a passionate intensity on Calvary alone, there his looks 
lingered with deep and wondering tenderness as though he 
saw some beatific vision on that lonely point which shone with 
a blood-red hue in the ardent flame of the descending sun. 
o 



314 B ARABS AS 

His companion, no other than Melchior, turned and saw him 
thus entranced. 

" Sorrowest thou, Simon," he said gently " to leave this 
land which God hath visited ? Vex not thy soul, for God 
is ever with thee ; and Calvary is not the wonder of Judaea, 
but of the wider world from henceforth. Judaea hath rejected 
the Divine, wherefore she herself shall be rejected." 

Simon of Gyrene, for it was he, looked up. 

" Yea, thou dost speak truly," he answered, " in this as in 
other things. Nevertheless I can but remember how I bore the 
Cross up yonder hill ! Words can never tell the sweetness of 
the toil, the joy and glory that surrounded me I And greater 
still the marvel of the raising of that Cross ! methought I 
held Salvation ! Let me not speak of it, my soul doth reel 
too near the verge of Heaven ! and once again I see His face 
the face of God that smiled on me I" 

Melchior did not speak for some minutes, his own eyes 
were turned thoughtfully towards some scattered rocks on a 
plain to the left of the city, which was sometimes called the 
" Place of Tombs" on account of its numerous hewn-out sepul- 
chres and burial-caves. 

" Over there," he said presently, pointing thither " sleeps 
Barabbas whom I told thee of, there where that solitary palm 
nods its half- withered leaves. "Twas I who gave him burial, 
no other living friend he seemed to have in all Jerusalem, de- 
spite the rapture of the foolish crowd the day he was set free. 
He was an untaught erring soul, yet not without some noble- 
ness a type of human Doubt aspiring unto Truth ; methinks 
out of this aspiration only, he hath found both peace and 
pardon." 

He was silent a little, then continued, 

" Cyrenian, to thee was given the strength to bear the Cross, 
and in thy task thou did'st obtain both faith and knowledge. 
All men may not win such sweet and sudden happiness, for 
humanity is weak, not strong. Humanity can rarely sacrifice 
itself for God, and doth not willingly accept a burden not ita 
own. Thou, who dost now resign thy home and kindred, thy 
fertile valleys of Cyrene, thy free and thoughtless serving of 
thyself, for the sake of serving the Divine, art wise before the 
days of wisdom, and wilt perchance know swiftly and at once 
what it will take this wild unspiritual world long centuries to 
learn. The Messenger has come, and the Message has been 
given, the Christ hath been slain and hath arisen from the 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 315 

iead, as symbol of the truth that Good shall triumph over 
Evil everlastingly, nevertheless it will be long ere the lesson 
of Divine Perfection is understood by manT 5 

Simon, rising from his kneeling attitude, looked wistfully and 
with some curiosity at the speaker. 

"Why should it be long?" he asked "Since thou so 
speedily hast learned to recognise the Christ? Art thou 
more skilled in mysteries than other men ?" 

" If I should say so, 'twould be a boast unworthy" Melchior 
answered slowly " And of the things occult I may not tell 
thee. But this much thou shalt hear. In early youth I was 
a king, . . . nay, man, wonder not ! kings are no marvel ! 
The puppets of the nations merely, prisoned round with vain 
trappings and idle shows, the very scorn of all who have ob- 
tained a true and glorious independence ! I learned in my 
brief kingship the worthlessness of sovereignty, the fickleness 
of crowds, the instability of friends, the foolishness of earthly 
power. When Christ was born in Bethlehem, a vision came 
upon me in the midwatches of the night, and an Angel stood 
before me saying ' Arise, Melchior 1 be thou the first mon- 
arch in the world to resign monarchy ; for the time hath come 
when crowns and kingdoms shall be utterly destroyed as ob- 
stacles to the Brotherhood of Man. Get thee to Bethlehem 
of Judaea, there shalt thou find the new-born God, the Prince 
of Peace, who will unite in one all nations, and link Humanity 
to Heaven by the splendour of His Everlasting Name !" 

He paused enrapt, Simon of Cyrene watched him awed and 
fascinated. 

"The Angel vanished" he continued " And I arose 
straightway and went, and stayed not on my journey till I 
came to Bethlehem ; there did I lay my crown before the Child 
of Mary, and swear to Him my faith/' I have followed Him 
from the cradle to the Cross ; I follow Him now from the rent 
sepulchre of Earth to the unbarre.d gate of Heaven !'} 

" And I with thee 1" exclaimed "Simon with eager fervour, 
" Lo, I am humble as a child and I will learn of thee all 
that I should do 1" 

" Nay, I can teach thee nothing" said Melchior gently 
" Thou hast borne the Cross thou hast lifted the Christ, the 
rest will be granted thee." 

He looked once more over the city which now seemed to 
float like a glittering mirage in the circling glory of the after- 
glow : the sun had sunk. 



316 B ARABS AS 

" 'If thou Tiad'st known, even in this thy day 1 " he quoted 
dreamily " Alas, alas ! What of those who wilfully prefer 
ignorance to knowledge !" 

" Speakest thou of the misguided who have scorned and re- 
jected the Divine?" asked Simon "Surely ere long they all 
will be convinced, yea, even Caiaphas" 

" Thou simple soul ! thinkest thou that a liar can ever be 
convinced of truth ? Nay 'tis a miracle past all working ! 
Through Caiaphas the stain of treachery will rest on the dead 
Judas ; through Caiaphas will be denied the Resurrection, 
through Caiaphas the very name of Christ will be banished 
from the Jewish annals. Bear thou this in mind, that a so- 
called Priest of God did crucify God's Messenger. 'Twill help 
thee to more clearly read the future ' 

" Knowest thou," said Simon suddenly " that Peter hath 
returned from Bethany and boldly preacheth Christ crucified 
and risen ?" 

" Ay, doth he preach ?" queried Melchior, with satiric melan- 
choly " And hath he grown so sudden bold ? Even so doth 
he make late atonement ! He hath a wondrous destiny for 
half the world will grasp the creed devised by him who did 
deny his Master." 

Sighing, he turned away from the city view. 

" 'Tis God's symbolic teaching," he said, " which few of us 
may understand. A language unlettered and vast as eternity 
itself! Upon that hill of Calvary to which thou, Simon, turnest 
thy parting looks of tenderness, hath been mystically enacted 
the world's one tragedy the tragedy of Love and Genius, 
slain to satisfy the malice of mankind. But Love and Genius 
are immortal, and immortality must evermore arise ; wherefore 
in the dark days that are coming let us not lose our courage or 
our hope. There will be many forms of faith, and many 
human creeds in which there is no touch of the Divine, keep 
we to the faithful following of Christ, and in the midst of many 
bewilderments we shall not wander far astray. The hour grows 
late, come, thou first hermit of the Christian world ! let us 
go on together !" 

They descended the hill. Across the plains they passed 
slowly ; taking the way that led towards the mystic laud of 
Egypt, where the Pyramids lift their summits to the stars, and 
the Nile murmurs of the false gods forgotten. They walked 
in a path of roseate radiance left by a reflection of the vanished 
sun ; and went onward steadily, never once looking back, till 



A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY 317 

their figures gradually diminished and disappeared. Swiftly 
the night gathered, and spread itself darkly over Jerusalem 
like a threatening shadow of storm and swift destruction ; 
thunder was in the air, and only one pale star peered dimly 
forth in the dusk, shining placidly over the Place of Tombs, 
where, in his quiet burial -cave, Barabbas slept beside the with, 
ering palm. 



THF 1ND. 



By Marie Corelli. 

Cameos. 

Ten Short Stories. I2mo. Cloth, $1.00. 

The surprising versatility of Marie Corelli has never been better displayed than 
in this varied group of short stories which run the whole gamut of feeling, senti- 
ment, and purpose known to contemporary fiction. Appearing as they do almost 
simultaneously with " The Sorrows of Satan," that wonderful romance of nine- 
teenth-century life which is the theme of the day, alike in England and America, 
they serve to mark the tenderness, the love of human sentiment, and the sympathy 
for human suffering which are naturally less emphasized in the more powerful and 
.ted novel. 



The Sorrows of Satan ; 

Or, The Strange Experience of one Geoffrey Tempest, 

Millionaire. 
A Romance. With frontispiece by Van Schaick. I2mo. Cloth, #1.50. 

" There is very little in common between this story and ' Barabbas.' In ' The 
Sorrows of Satan' Miss Corelli wields a much more vigorous pen. She is full of her 
purpose. Dear me, how she scathes English society ! She exposes the low life of 
high life with a ruthless pen. The sins of the fashionable world made even Satan 
sad ; they were more than he could bear, poor man ! The book is lively reading, 
and will be read in England with an eager curiosity." CAieafo Tribune. 

Barabbas. 

A Dream of the World's Tragedy. 

I2mo. Cloth, $1.00. 

"A book which aroused hi some quarters more violent hostility than any book 
of recent years. By most secular critics the authoress was accused of bad taste, 
bad art, and gross blasphemy; but, in curious contrast, most religious papers 
acknowledged the reverence of treatment and the dignity of conception which 
characterized the work." Lfndon Athentzum. 

Vendetta ; 

Or, The Story of One Forgotten. 
i2mo. Cloth, $1.00. 

" It is a thrilling and irresistibly charming book." Baltimore American. 

" The story is Italian, the time 1884, and the precise stage of the acts, Naples, 

during the last visitation of the cholera. A romance, but a romance of reality. No 

mind of man can imagine incidents so wonderful, so amazing as those of actual 

occurrence. While the story is exciting, and must be read through when once 

egun, it furnishes a vivid and impr " 

ashington National Republican. 



J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA. 



By Captain Charles King, U.S.A. 

Under Fire, illustrated. The Colonel's Daughter, illustrated 
Marion's Faith, illustrated. Captain Blake, illustrated. 

Foes in Ambush. (Paper, 50 cents.) 

I2mo. Cloth, $1.25. 



Waring's Peril. Trials of a Staff Officer. 

I2I710. Cloth, Jl.OO. 



Kitty's Conquest. 

Starlight Ranch, and Other Stories. 
Laramie; or, The Queen of Bedlam. 
The Deserter, and From the Ranks. 
Two Soldiers, and Dunraven Ranch. 

A Soldier's Secret, and An Army Portia. 
Captain Close, and Sergeant Croesus. 

I2mo. Cloth, J i. oo ; paper, 50 cents. 



EDITOR OF 

The Colonel's Christmas Dinner, and Other Stories. 

izmo. Cloth, fx. 25; paper, 50 cents. 

An Initial Experience, and Other Stories. 

121110. Cloth, fi. oo ; paper, 50 cents. 

Captain Dreams, and Other Stories. 

iznio. Cloth, (i.oo; paper, 50 cents. 



" From the lowest soldier to the highest officer, from the servant to the master, 
there is not a character in any of Captain King's novels that is not wholly in keep- 
ing with expressed sentiments. There is not a movement made on the field, not a 
break from the ranks, not an offence against the military code of discipline, and 
hardly a heart-beat that escapes his watchfulness." Boston Herald. 



J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA. 



This book is DUE on the last date stamped below. 



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U L R D L MAY 10198, 

Ktiri) ID-URt 

APR1 7 1985 
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